Tuesday, June 19 , 2018, 3:05 am | Fair 57º


Local News

Torch Run for Special Olympics Makes Its Way Down Central Coast

Law enforcement officers team up to carry torch for Special Olympians and Long Beach games

Santa Barbarans may have noticed clusters of traffic Wednesday, with patrol cars and motorcades driving alongside runners carrying a torch through town. That’s because this week marks the annual Torch Run for Special Olympics that had dozens of law enforcement officials hoofing it through the streets to spread the word about this year’s Summer Games.

It’s all part of a year-round fundraising effort to garner funds for the Special Olympics and raise awareness about the nonprofit organization. The run started out in San Luis Obispo on Tuesday morning and made its way through northern Santa Barbara County late Tuesday. On Wednesday, runners began the South Coast leg of the event at Refugio State Beach.

The run will continue through Ventura County on Thursday and continue to Long Beach, where the Special Olympics Southern California Summer Games will take place Saturday and Sunday. More than 1,100 athletes are expected to participate this year. On top of the expected stellar turnout, the organization just celebrated its 40th year anniversary Tuesday at the Courthouse Sunken Gardens.

The torch arrived at California Highway Patrol headquarters in Goleta at noon Wednesday, carried by Capt. Jeff Sgobba, who was accompanied by his daughter, Leann.

“We are thrilled to be a part of the torch run,” he said.

The effort drew officers and staff members from multiple organizations; State Parks, Santa Barbara police and county sheriff’s departments, county Probation Department, UCSB Police Department and the District Attorney’s Office all participated Wednesday.

Sheriff’s Lt. Butch Arnoldi said that during the 2008 event, 1,500 miles were run by various agencies, and runners raised $900,000 for the Special Olympics. This year, law enforcement officials already have raised $15,000 with Tip-a-Cop, he said, an event during which law enforcement officers serve food at local restaurants, working for tips that go back to the organization.

Speaking on behalf of the Deputy Sheriffs’ Association, Dan Calderon said he relished the opportunity to donate to the Special Olympics. He presented a $5,000 check to Sara Spataro, the regional director of Special Olympics Santa Barbara.

“It brings us a lot of pleasure to be able to do this,” Calderon said.

Sgobba also took a moment to honor the memory of Jimmy Funkhouser, a Special Olympian track and softball athlete who died in May. Funkhouser was a fixture around the CHP offices, Sgobba said, and would come in two to three times each week to fill out a job application to work with the CHP.

“He loved emergency responders, and he especially loved to pass out hugs,” Calderon said. Funkhouser’s sister, Karen Clatterbuck, was present Wednesday and accepted an honorary award for him. “He loved to be with them and had a lifelong dream of being in law enforcement,” she said.

“Special Olympics leaves an indelible impact on all of us,” Sgobba said. Turning to several Olympians who will be competing this year, he praised their efforts, no matter the outcome of this weekend’s competition.

“You inspire us,” he said, before leaving to carry the torch toward Santa Barbara.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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