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Law Enforcement Torch Run For Special Olympics Enters Santa Barbara County

Santa Maria presents $70,000-check to Special Olympics from local fundraising efforts

With members of the Santa Maria Police Department by his side, Special Olympian Mattie Luna carries the “Flame of Hope” as the Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics Southern Califoria continues its route in Santa Maria Tuesday.
With members of the Santa Maria Police Department by his side, Special Olympian Mattie Luna carries the “Flame of Hope” as the Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics Southern Califoria continues its route in Santa Maria Tuesday. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

The Special Olympics “Flame of Hope” is making its way through Santa Barbara County en route to the Summer Games in Long Beach this weekend. 

The final leg for the Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics Southern California began Tuesday morning in San Luis Obispo County before entering the Santa Maria Valley while marking a special anniversary.

“This is a special day. We’re celebrating 30 years today,” said Santa Maria police Detective Nathan Totorica.

The Law Enforcement Torch Run was started in 1981 in the Midwest and came to Southern California in 1986, to raise money and awareness for Special Olympics, officials noted.

“It’s become an international movement where they raise millions of dollars a year to help the Special Olympics athletic programs,” Recreation and Parks Director Alex Posada said.

“We’re fortunate in Santa Barbara County to have support from all the local  police departments, the Sheriff’s Office, some of the federal agencies, some of the county law enforcement agencies that you don’t really think about like Probation Department and the District Attorney’s Office who also help us out.”

The torch made a mid-day stop at Santa Maria City Hall for a short ceremony where Totorica thanked supporters and athletes. 

“We had a great group runners … one of the best we’ve had and I really appreciate all of you guys coming out and running,” he said. “And then the athletes —obviously the reason why we do this — we carry the flame of hope for them.”

The Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics makes its way along Broadway on Tuesday afternoon. Click to view larger
The Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics makes its way along Broadway on Tuesday afternoon.  (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

Totorica also presenting Chief Ralph Martin with a special torch to mark the 30th anniversary of the run in Southern California. 

“Since he’s been our police chief, the amount of money we’ve raised in this area has been increasing and I think that’s a result of his support for this organization,” Totorica said.

Martin presented a $70,000 check to Special Olympics as a result of the fundraising from Tip-A-Cop lunches and dinners and the annual Bull Canyon Run.

Members of the Police Explorers also help raise money.

“They learn the value of supporting their community and being philanthropic through the efforts of the Torch Run,” Posada said.

Also during the ceremony, Mayor Pro-Tem Etta Waterfield read a proclamation recognizing the Law Enforcement Torch Run, with special praise for members of the Police Department.

“Not only do they protect and defend the city of Santa Maria, but they also get involved in organizations that are so worthwhile and so meaningful as well,” Waterfield said. 

Special Olympians and law enforcement members traveled south along Broadway on its way to Vandenberg Air Force Base for a ceremony at the Missile V before heading into Lompoc for another ceremony at City Hall.

Lompoc police received the torch from Lompoc Federal Correctional Complex employees.

On Wednesday, the torch kicks off its travels with a short stint in Solvang before being driven to the South Coast where it will start again on Highway 101 at Refugio State Beach while carried by California State Parks staff.

Later, the torch will be handed off to members of the California Highway Patrol, Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office, UCSB Police and Santa Barbara Police. The full route and estimated times can be found here.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

The Law Enforcement Torch Run presented $70,000 to Special Olympics on Tuesday. Pictured are Special Olympian Kaitlyn Luna, Santa Maria police detective Nathan Totorica, Special Olympian Mattie Luna, police Chief Ralph Martin and Mayor Pro-Tem Etta Waterfield. Click to view larger
The Law Enforcement Torch Run presented $70,000 to Special Olympics on Tuesday. Pictured are Special Olympian Kaitlyn Luna, Santa Maria police detective Nathan Totorica, Special Olympian Mattie Luna, police Chief Ralph Martin and Mayor Pro-Tem Etta Waterfield. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)
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