Torch Run


What is the Law Enforcement Torch Run?

The Law Enforcement Torch Run is the single largest year-round fundraising movement benefiting Special Olympics Illinois. The Torch Run has two goals – to raise money and to gain awareness for the athletes who participate in Special Olympics Illinois. The Torch Run includes an annual intrastate relay conducted by officers representing every branch of law enforcement within the state as well as our federal partners. Approximately 3,000 officers will carry the Flame of Hope nearly 1,500 miles, running through thousands of Illinois communities via 23 different legs (routes) to its final destination – the Opening Ceremony of the Special Olympics Illinois Summer Games in Normal.

In addition, the Law Enforcement Torch Run hosts a variety of annual fundraising events including Polar Plunges, Dunkin’ Cop on Rooftop, Texas Roadhouse Benefit Lunch, Truck Convoy and Plane Pull events. Since 1986, the Law Enforcement Torch Run has raised nearly $57 million while increasing awareness of Special Olympics Illinois athletes and their accomplishments.

The Law Enforcement Torch Run has selected “Guardians of the Flame” as the theme for 2021 and will be using #ILTorchRun on social media to inspire officers and departments to spread the word about how the Torch Run transforms the lives of Special Olympics athletes in Illinois.

Follow the Illinois Torch Run on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to stay up to date on events and activities.

2021 Law Enforcement Torch Run Goals

  • Become and remain the top Torch Run fundraising program in the world!
  • Maintain raising a minimum of $5 million per year for the athletes of SOILL
  • Increased presence at SOILL local and state competitions
  • Minimum increase of 5% total dollars raised per leg
  • Minimum of $75,000 profit from the Harley-Davidson raffle
  • LETR Plane Pull to raise minimum of $230,000
  • LETR Truck Convoy to raise minimum of $155,000
  • Minimum of $60,000 profit from the Camper raffle
  • Partner with Dunkin’ Donuts to cover 320 Cop on Rooftop locations that raise $950,000
  • Cultivate statewide LETR sponsorship, with a goal of $100,000 in new support
  • Each Leg Leader will be responsible for recruiting new departments into the Torch Run with the goal of a 15% increase (state-wide) in new agencies involved in the TR in 2020 (see inactive dept./agency list)
  • New departments will have a goal to raise a minimum of $1,000 each in 2021
  • Annual Polar Plunge Statewide Goals: 7,500, $2.0 million
  • Torch Run Leg Leaders and Department Liaisons who may no longer fulfill their role are encouraged to recruit & train a replacement keeping the LETR effort in their agency alive and growing
  • Utilize new online Torch Run merchandise ordering format to monitor statewide inventory resulting in a 25% reduction of year-end excess TR merchandise (remember you are responsible for all TR merchandise you check out)
  • Work with ILACP leadership to identify opportunities to expand LETR recruitment efforts among their members
  • Increased brand recognition of the online merchandise store

Illinois LETR History

The Torch Run began in Illinois in 1986 with less than 100 runners carrying the torch along five legs: North (starting in South Beloit), South (starting in Cairo), West (starting in Quincy), East (starting in Danville) and the city of Chicago. Illinois’ first Torch Run raised just $14,039.93, but the seed was planted for future growth. The Torch Run raised $500,000 in Illinois in 1997. Illinois easily surpassed the $1 million mark in 2001, reached the $2 million mark in 2006 and the $3 million mark in 2013. Since 2015, the Illinois Torch Run has consistently raised $4 million for the athletes of Special Olympics Illinois.

International LETR History

Across the United States, law enforcement officers carry the Special Olympics Torch on intrastate relays, running for a common cause that takes them through blizzards in Alaska, the daunting Florida Everglades, the endless farm land of Illinois, and the deserts of Arizona to bring the torch to the Opening Ceremonies of their state’s Summer Special Olympics Games.

The dedication of more than 97,000 police chiefs, police officers, Secret Service and FBI agents, military police, sheriffs, state troopers, prison guards and other law enforcement personnel in 50 states, and 46 nations generate more than $56 million annually and raise huge amounts of awareness for Special Olympics athletes.

The numbers are impressive. And the Special Olympics Law Enforcement Torch Run continues to grow.

The Torch Run began in 1981, when Wichita Kansas Police Chief Richard LaMunyon saw a need to raise funds for, and awareness of, Kansas Special Olympics. LaMunyon felt that Special Olympics was a fitting cause to unite local law enforcement officers, giving them closer ties to the community and to a very special population.

Each individual Torch Run is organized by law enforcement personnel with liaisons from Special Olympics. Law enforcement officers, carrying the Special Olympics Torch, run intervals along a planned route covering most of the state or country to the site of the Opening Ceremonies of the Chapter or International Special Olympics Summer Games. At that time they pass the torch to a Special Olympics athlete and together they run up to the caldron and light it signifying the beginning of the games. Law enforcement officers then become part of the ceremony as an honor guard.

After three years of success, LaMunyon presented his highly successful Torch Run program to the International Association of Chiefs of Polices (IACP), whose enthusiastic support enabled the Torch Run to expand to nine states. Two years later, The Good Sam Club, a national organization of recreation vehicle owners, volunteered to provide massive logistical assistance as a National Support Sponsor.

The Torch Run grew enthusiastically through increased support of the Adopt-A-Cop program, a donation program built for businesses, service clubs, and schools. The naming in 1988 of Arnold Schwarzenegger as the Official Honorary Chairman served notice that the Torch Run had arrived.

As the Torch Run continued to grow, it took on another dimension: International Games Torch Run. In 1987 the sponsors and organizers created the Final Leg – A Torch Run extravaganza in which law enforcement representatives carried the Special Olympics Torch from Chicago, the site of the First International Summer Special Olympics Summer Games in 1968, to the 7th International Summer Special Olympics Games in South Bend, Indiana. Now, every two years there is a special Torch Run leading to the International Summer and International Winter Special Olympics Games (organized in alternating years). These Torch Runs are comprised of runners from every state and participating country.