Special Olympics Arizona
Law Enforcement Officers at Torch RunLaw Enforcement Officers at Torch Run

Law Enforcement Torch Run

Impact of LETR

Law Enforcement Torch Run Logo

Law Enforcement Torch Run® (LETR) is the largest fundraising vehicle for Special Olympics across the globe. In Arizona, law enforcement around the state raise over one million dollars per year that goes directly back to creating increased opportunities for Special Olympics Arizona athletes. Without their support, continued development would be near impossible. In the same respect, we at Special Olympics Arizona would like to ensure that we share not only the impact that law enforcement personnel have had on our community but express our immense gratitude for all that they continue to do.

Special Olympics Arizona is grateful for Law Enforcement Personnel. Through LETR, which raises awareness and financial support for Special Olympics worldwide, law enforcement lends an important hand in celebrating the greatness in all people, especially individuals with intellectual disabilities.

Share Your Impact Story!

Click here to share how LETR has impacted you with Special Olympics Arizona.

Mike Burnett
Director of LETR
Direct: 307.262.8835



How has being involved in the Arizona Law Enforcement Torch Run impacted your life?
Working in law enforcement especially at the prison, you tend to see people who have chosen a path that leads to the worst possible results. These inmates have lived a life full of violence, drugs, and alcohol, and they end up incarcerated, separated from their families. The sad part of this is so many of these inmates are so young, and they are looking for someone to guide them, and they often get the wrong guidance from other inmates. One thing all inmates love to do is eat food from the outside the walls, like Pizza Hut, McDonald’s, Burger King, etc. We would have food fundraisers from these restaurants and the proceeds would support Special Olympics. The inmates were getting all this great food, but they did not really know how, or whom it was benefiting. A few years ago, Josh called me and asked if we have a Special Olympian come into the prison and talk to the inmates about all the support they were giving them. As a whole, the Department of Corrections had donated over $500,000 to Special Olympics. We completed the proper authorization and it was granted.
June of 2014 was life changing for me. A man by the name of Jeff Steron, a Special Olympian stepped into our lives and it has never been the same since. He walked into the units with confidence and pride, and talked about the many challenges he has overcome and the many medals he has won. He talked about how the r-word hurts so much, and he was not afraid to let the tears run down his cheek when he said this. These tough inmates were finally touched by something real. I saw tears in the eyes of inmates as they watched a real person talk about life’s challenges, and how they were able to overcome them in such an amazing way. The inmates learned that day that Jeff was not alone in his journey and that their support and participation in the fundraisers for Special Olympics were a big reason he and so many others were allowed to rise to greatness. I am so glad I had the opportunity to meet Jeff. Since then other wonderful Olympians have visited us. Their visits were so awesome, but you always remember the ones that were not afraid to lay it all on the table. Ever since that day, I have not been afraid to lay it all on the table and strive for greatness no matter what the challenges.


Is there a specific athlete that has had a significant impact? If yes, who is that athlete and how have they impacted your life?
Jeff, as mentioned above In what ways have you been involved with LETR? I have had the privilege to be the Coordinator the Arizona State Prison Complex  Douglas for over ten years.


What would you say to people to get them more involved with LETR?
Don’t be afraid to lay it all on the table! Let’s get out there and help those that have the drive to make this world a better place. These champions do this one medal at a time, one hug at a time, one smile at a time, and the most awesome part of it all is they don’t expect anything in return except for your support.

-CO IV Derek Alvarez, Arizona State Prison Complex  Douglas



It was cool walking with the torch for the 2016 Summer Games. One lady was very nice and I took a picture with her. I think that more athletes should do the torch run because it was fun! Krista Aufdemberge, Special Olympics Arizona Athlete, Westside Warriors I was so impressed with the entire torch run! Tears came to my eyes as I was following my daughter and the other participants. I saw just how special the torch run was. All of the officers were absolutely terrific! It was such an honor to have my daughter run with them!

-Kathy Aufdemberge, Parent of Krista Aufdemberge



I have participated with the Law Enforcement Torch Run for over 30 years. I have been the coordinator for the Glendale Police Department, and am currently on the Arizona LETR State Council. I have helped coordinate the department’s participation in the Fuel of Dreams, a number of Tip A Cops, Opening Ceremonies for Competitions, Breakfast With Champions and Guardian Games. For many of our officers, including myself, I think that the Arizona Law Enforcement Torch Run helps us hit the reset button as to what is truly a priority in life. To talk and run with the athletes and see the joy in their eyes as we run down the streets, lets us all know there is a greater good and how being an officer affects some people.
It’s a very relaxing moment for us to spend even a small amount of time with the athletes and their families. I will tell you that for many, it’s just a sense of pride to give back and know that the athletes and their families truly enjoy the time as well.

-Commander Rich Bradshaw, Glendale Police Department



How has being involved in the Arizona Law Enforcement Torch Run impacted your life?
I have become more involved in Special Olympic, I started a new delegation with my wife and co-works in Law Enforcement.

Is there a specific athlete that has had a significant impact? If yes, who is that athlete and how have they impacted your life?
I did not know this athlete, but in 2009, I was helping my wife by handing out the awards to the athlete’s at a bowling tournament in Phoenix. This one athlete who was about 35 years old, grabbed me as I was putting the medal around his neck and gave me a big hug and kissed me on my cheek for about 2-3 minutes. Then he let me go, but it was the biggest rush of happiness. I was hooked on Special Olympics.

In what ways have you been involved with LETR?
I am the Coordinator for Pinal County Sheriff’S Office.

-Darin Eccles, Pinal County Sherriff’s Office



How has Special Olympics Arizona impacted your life?
Special Olympics has provided me we a wonderful opportunity to enjoy some of the most pure and rewarding experiences of my life. I have had opportunities to learn more about people with intellectual disabilities by supporting the LETR events for 13 years and then 3 years ago a group of friends and I started the Florence San Tan Valley Delegation and I became a coach. Being a coach has changed who I am. Working in a prison and dealing day in and day out with people who throw their lives away on drugs and crime, you become hard and callus; coaching has brought laughter and compassion back to my heart. I can be tired and grumpy on a Saturday morning; but by the time the athletes show up an tell me how excited they are to be at practice and they tell me how much they love us for coming out to help them I am re-energized and have a renewed excitement for life and people.

What is your most memorable Special Olympics moment and why?
My most memorable experience is the one in which my husband got hooked on SO. About 6 years ago I needed him to help me deliver medals to athletes at a bowling tournament in the far north valley. He reluctantly agreed to give up his Saturday and wear his Class A uniform. He agreed he would do it for just a few hours. When we arrived, he was overwhelmed to say the least when athlete after athlete came up to him wanting a picture or to shake his hand. What happened next is the story he tells everyone he meets. There were four athletes standing on the podium excited and waiting for their medals; Darin would start with fourth place, then the silver medal. He would place the medal around the athletes’ neck and shake their hand. When he got to the bronze medal winner, he again placed the medal around his neck and went to shake his hand; the athlete was having no part of a handshake. The athlete reached out, grabbed my husband around the neck, and planted the longest kiss on his cheek LOL. My husband was shocked but graceful he stood there for several minutes until I could distract the athlete. In that moment, you could see my husband’s whole world change. He has been a huge supporter of SO ever since.

-Wendy Eccles



I accidentally discovered LETR by an officer that was the Special Programs Coordinator for the Phoenix Police Department. She was going to retire from the department and was looking for someone energetic, passionate, with a get it done work ethic as her replacement. She showed me the ins and outs of her job and got me hooked to Special Olympics Arizona. I can truly say I fell in love with the organization and the people. Special Olympics is now part of my everyday life; Facebook, email, twitter, anyone I come in contact with, etc. I know that after I retire from the police department, Special Olympics will continue to be an organization I will be blessed to be part of. After serving as the Special Programs Coordinator for the City of Phoenix Police Department for several years, I am now assigned as a patrol sergeant. I also am a member of the Arizona Law Enforcement Torch Run Council, serving as Co-Chair and Chair of the Torch Run Committee. I have coordinated the Law Enforcement Torch Run, Fry’s Fuel of Dreams, Tip A Cop, table captain for Breakfast with Champions, Over the Edge, Unified Sports, and numerous fundraisers.
All of the athletes have had a significant impact on my life, but I do have two in particular that have just warmed my heart beyond belief. Molly Wise and Chy Johnson are two beautiful young ladies that truly have taught me to focus on my abilities, not disabilities. Molly has such a desire to show love and acceptance to all those she comes in contact with. You know you have met Molly because you would have been given one of the best hugs you have ever experienced .Chy is just filled with energy and desire to be part of any activity, to contribute in whatever format possible. Chy’s gift is to teach about the effects that love has had in her life despite the hardships of life. I am a better person because of these two young ladies and their strong, dedicated mom’s. I recall a shirt I saw not too long ago that said, Warning, Special Olympics is highly addictive and you may be hooked for life. I am highly enthusiastic about my partnership with Special Olympics and I make it a point to tell people about all the goodness that is happening with Special Olympics. In a world full of negativity, Special Olympics provides an escape, an opportunity to do something that will change you, while doing something great for others. I love to socialize and make friends. The easiest question to answer is, ‘what do you do?’ That is the beginning of a potential partner. I continue to speak to people until I find the one motivating factor that gets me an ‘in’ with them. That is my ‘gotcha hooked’ and the rest is pure commitment.

-Sergeant Luz Fernandez, Phoenix Police Department



The Arizona Law Enforcement Torch Run has impacted my life by making me realized that it’s about the spirit of giving back to the community and welcoming and accepting people of all abilities.

In what way have you been involved in LETR?
In May 06, 2016, I had the opportunity to walk alongside a wonderful Special Olympics Arizona athlete. What would I say to people to get involved with LETR. I would tell them the importance of this organization and how it unites the community with our law enforcement agencies.

-Carlos Fuentes



How has Special Olympics Arizona impacted your life?
It helps me see the good in people instead of the negativity and evil I deal with on a daily basis working as a sergeant in a prison.
What is your most memorable Special Olympics moment and why?
Bringing one of my officers to an area meat to pass out medals. And on of the athletes told him how much she appreciates the job we do and she was going to win the gold for us, which she did. And told him I did this for you and all the hard work you do when he placed the gold medal on her neck. The look of pride on his face and the fact he keeps asking when he can help again.

-Kelvin Horten



The LETR has given me a job that I get to go to at least once a week. It keeps me very busy. There are many members of the Arizona Law Enforcement Torch Run that have had a significant impact on my life. Chris Kriebel and Coach John Gilkey have made my life so much more fun. I really love helping them. Erin Rin and Lucy Fernandez from Phoenix PD have taught me to be more open. All four of these people come and watch me compete and support me no matter what I am doing. I love them all very much. If you get involved with LETR, you will be busier than you ever thought of being, but you will have so much fun with all these awesome officers. You will also be helping athletes like me to compete. It is very rewarding seeing people that care about me waiting for me at the finish line.

-Chy Johnson, Special Olympics Arizona Athlete, Florence/San Tan Mighty Ducks



I cannot find words to explain how cool it was for me to carry the torchand light the cauldron at the 2015 Summer Games. I love to hang out with member of LETR when I am not competing. I think that it is nice of the law enforcement officers to get to know and support the athletes and partners in Special Olympics Arizona.

-Tim Manesh, Special Olympics Arizona Athlete, City of Scottsdale



How has being involved in the Arizona Law Enforcement Torch Run impacted your life?
I started helping with the Torch Run with my agency about 10 years ago and I became a coordinator about 8 years ago. It’s more than a fundraising effort for me personally. It’s a chance to put my daily stresses to the side and focus on the positive energy I get from seeing the athletes give their all. Coconino County is huge, so having Special Olympics in my life and in my agency’s life, helps us connect with the community.

Is there a specific athlete that has had a significant impact? If yes, who is that athlete and how have they impacted your life?
I patrol the area around the Grand Canyon. I met Bill Barber, who is aÊfull timeÊresident of the Grand Canyon and Special Olympics Arizona athlete. Bill spoke at the first yearly conference I ever attended and moved me to tears. We had a close working relationship. He passed away in 2014. The auditorium was packed with people who he impacted. I think of him often.

In what ways have you been involved with LETR?
I’m the current coordinator for my agency, Coconino County Sheriff’s Office, as of 2015. I organize the LETR and Tip a Cop’s in Flagstaff and Page with the incredible help of our correction deputies. Page raised over $5,000.00 this year at Tip a Cop, which is just awesome. In my free time, I have been a presenter at the Winter and Summer games throughout the years. This year, I have been involved with the ALC in the Mountain area and helped collect fundraising items for Bare Aspen Beer and Wine Tasting.

What would you say to people to get them more involved with LETR?
Take an hour of your time to watch, learn and participate with the people and athletes of SO. You will walk away feeling good and the memories last a life time. It’s contagious.

-Deputy Jennifer Morrison-Garcia, Coconino County Sheriff’s Office



I had fun and would do it again. I liked all of the officers and being able to carry the torch with the Glendale Police Department. Everyone should do it. Wyatt Robishaw, Special Olympics Arizona Athlete, Westside Warriors As a parent of a child with special needs, I have had many proud moments with my child’s accomplishments. The LETR was such an amazing event that my son was able to participate in. All of the officers treated him as if he was one of them and encouraged him to keep going. I am very thankful that he had this opportunity and it was and experience that we both will never forget.
-Nora Vaughn, Parent of Wyatt Robishaw



How has being involved in the Arizona Law Enforcement Torch Run impacted your life?
Being involved in the Arizona Law Enforcement Torch Run is an opportunity to join forces with our brothers and sisters in the law enforcement community, while recognizing these truly special people. In past, the staff at the San Luis Regional Detention and Support Center have had the pleasure of having a gentleman named Garrett join us on the run which made it all the more rewarding. To see his broad smile is enlightening.

Is there a specific athlete that has had a significant impact? If yes, who is that athlete and how have they impacted your life?
Haley and Garrett. Haley ran with the staff of the San Luis Regional Detention and Support Center, Garrett road beside us. This was Garrett’s 2nd year accompanying us.

In what ways have you been involved with LETR?
The staff at the San Luis Regional Detention and Support Center get involved yearly. This year we had participants in a 5k run and then the Torch Run.

What would you say to people to get them more involved with LETR?
Join us! Our participation is growing annually; we started with just 3-4 participants in 2010 and have grown to over 25.

-San Luis Regional Detention and Support Center


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