Cops carry the Special Olympics torch

Burbank and Glendale police officials on Wednesday carried the Special Olympics torch on behalf of thousands of athletes participating in the 2012 Summer Games this weekend.

The annual jog is part of a law enforcement tradition known as the Torch Run, which kicks off the start of the games on Saturday at Cal State University Long Beach.

Officers escorted the athletes, who have intellectual disabilities, along Glendale and Burbank streets before connecting with their Los Angeles counterparts. One of those athletes was Ronnie Moreno, 51, who has participated in track and field events in past games.

To prepare for the run, Moreno said he has been doing plenty of walking and jogging.

“I want to do better than last year,” he said.

More than 85,000 officers participated in torch runs nationwide last year, according to the nonprofit organization. They also raised $42.6 million for equipment, training and transportation for Special Olympics athletes.

More than 2,000 of those officers were in Southern California, running roughly 500 miles carrying three torches. The first leg began May 29 in Chula Vista while the other two legs started Monday in San Luis Obispo and the South Bay.

Burbank police accepted one of the torches about 12:30 p.m. from officers of the Los Angeles Police Department-North Hollywood Division at Riverside Drive and Clybourn Avenue.

Burbank’s team included 12 police personnel and two canine units — a first for the dogs, Lt. John Dilibert said.

They traversed the streets and passed the torch to Glendale officers waiting at Glenoaks Boulevard and Alameda Avenue. From there, Glendale police ran through the city before passing the torch to LAPD officers at Colorado Street and the Glendale (2) Freeway onramp.

“We are happy that we are part of it,” Glendale Officer Sue Shine said. “It’s a morale booster.”

The year-round regional program hosts 450 local athletes who participate in aquatics, bocce ball, track, basketball and golf.

Athletes have been competing since February for the opportunity to participate in the games, said Laura Mayo, regional director of Tri-Valley Special Olympics program.

Twelve athletes from the Tri-Valley region will compete in aquatics events. Another 10 will participate in basketball and eight in track events. Four athletes will join bocce competitions, while another three will compete in golf activities.

More than 1,000 athletes will vie for gold, silver and bronze medals in six sports category at the games.

“This is one of the highlights of all the competitions,” Mayo said.

The Glendale Police Officer’s Assn. donated $300 to the organization. Burbank police plan to host their annual “Tip-a-Cop” event June 12 at Black Angus, 235 S. First St., to raise money for the organization.

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