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Pinellas cops carry torch for Special Olympics Florida

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Law enforcement officers from across Pinellas spent much of Wednesday morning carrying a torch across the county as part of the annual Torch Run for Special Olympics Florida.

They began in St. Petersburg with about 40 officers, said Sgt. Spencer Gross, spokesman for the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office. By the end of the 23-mile journey at Paul B. Stephens Exceptional Education Center in Clearwater, there were more than 140 officers who ran or bicycled as part of the relay.

As they ran, the torch was handed off in a relay to officers from one of nine agencies that took part, including the Pinellas County Sheriff; and the St. Petersburg, Pinellas Park, Largo and Clearwater police departments. The goals of the run were to raise funds through sponsorships and sales of T-shirts and caps, and to boost awareness of the sports opportunities for the disabled.

The torch relay, which has been done for 25 years in Pinellas, is part of a statewide run in which more than 5,000 officers from more than 300 agencies. Those participating include police and sheriffs’ departments, the Florida Department of Corrections, Florida Department of Law Enforcement, FBI, Drug Enforcement Agency, U.S. Customs, Air Force Police, and Marine Patrol.

The run winds 1,500 miles through Florida’s 67 counties until it ends in time for the Special Olympics Florida State Summer Games. The state relay began at the end of March and will finish at the Opening Ceremonies. Officers from around the state join together to bring the Flame of Hope™ into the stadium.

This year, the games will be held May 20-21 in Lake Buena Vista. They will be televised on ESPN Wide World of Sports.

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