In 1982, the late Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Police Officer Steven Vitale was asked to take photos at a local Special Olympics competition in New Jersey. He was so moved by the determination exhibited by the athletes that he asked other police officers to volunteer at the Summer Games. In 1984, the first New Jersey Torch Run was conceived to raise funds and public awareness for the Special Olympics New Jersey program. The course ran from Liberty State Park in Jersey City to Rutgers Stadium in New Brunswick, through eight towns, covering 43 miles and raising $7,000. In each succeeding year, the dollar amount became greater and the number of volunteers increased substantially.
Driven by the willingness of the New Jersey Law Enforcement officers to do more, the Law Enforcement Torch Run began to expand over the years. New fundraising events and initiatives were created and held throughout the Garden State to promote the Special Olympics movement. With over $2 million raised annually by more than 3,000 officers through local and statewide events, the Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics New Jersey has been recognized in the world for many years as one of the top grassroots fundraising organizations for Special Olympics. Fundraising events that are conducted year-round in New Jersey include an Adopt-a-Cop campaign for the annual Torch Run, three Polar Bear Plunges, the Lincoln Tunnel Challenge 5K, the United Airlines Plane Pull and golf outings to name a few. In addition to fundraising, Law Enforcement officers volunteer at athlete competitions and events year-round, while serving as ambassadors in local communities.
2023 marks the 40th Anniversary of the New Jersey Law Enforcement Torch Run with officers, known as “Guardians of the Flame” showing that the “Flame of Hope” is alive and well for years to come in the Garden State.
On Friday, June 9th, the annual Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics New Jersey will feature more than 3,000 officers taking to the streets of their local communities, split up into 26 separate legs with some starting as early as 4:45 a.m., and run to raise awareness for Special Olympics New Jersey.
The Annual Torch Run will precede Special Olympics New Jersey’s Summer Games taking place on
The College of New Jersey campus from June 9-11.
We are proud to announce that the Law Enforcement Torch Run has globally raised more than $𝟭 𝗯𝗶𝗹𝗹𝗶𝗼𝗻 for local Special Olympics programs since 1981! These funds have helped enable our programs to provide year-round sports training and competition for our athletes.
“What started in 1981...as a flicker of hope for Special Olympics has now become a roaring flame of stability for Special Olympics athletes worldwide.” Richard LaMunyon, founder of Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics
Where do the funds go?
Special Olympics New Jersey provides year-round sports training, competition, leadership opportunities and health screenings to 22,000 athletes and Unified Partners. All of these programs and services are always completely FREE thanks to fundraising events like the Law Enforcement Torch Run.