The Special Olympics has garnered attention the world over for showing that hard work and dedication are universal. Here in Manchester the police department raises money for the Special Olympics every year through the Joe Casey Law Enforcement relay. This time Manchester Police Chief Mark “Yogi” Yother wants all of the runners from west Tennessee to meet at Manchester so that they can travel together as the group delivers the torch to Nashville. Manchester and to a larger extent Tennessee are just some in a long line that have supported the Special Olympics and it all started with a woman in Maryland.
“The event starts from Bristol and goes all the way to Nashville,” Yother said. “It used to be across the state but we had been doing it virtually for a few years now. Joe Casey wanted it to be run across the state this year and the police chiefs of Tennessee felt happy to oblige. I requested that all of the runners from the west side of Tennessee meet here in Manchester so that we as a group could deliver the torch to the stadium in Nashville.
“It’s a great honor to raise money and awareness for these great athletes,” Yother said. “It’s something I’m very proud to be a part of.” The event kicked off on Nov. 10 from Bristol.
Eunice Shriver was in charge of the John F. Kennedy Jr. foundation, which focused on the causes of mental disability and traveled around the country finding out as much as she could. She recruited numerous experts to the foundation and it could be said that through her efforts many new treatments had been found. Shriver’s contribution to the world could have stopped there, but one summer she was contacted by a parent of a mentally disabled child. The parent told her she was having trouble finding a place where her child could be accepted for a summer camp. Back in the 1960s disabilities weren’t as understood as they are now and most places wouldn’t make accommodations for those with special needs. Shriver decided that simply wouldn’t do, so she started her own camp for children with special needs. Shriver asked special schools and clinics if they knew any children that were interested in attending her camp. Shriver ended up with 34 special needs children and 24 counselors to help with one-on-one needs at her first camp dubbed Camp Shriver. The camp was a great success as it gave those children who hadn’t had a chance to play sports or even socialize the opportunity to do so. The camp lasted for four years until Shriver proposed a new event for those with special needs.
Camp Shriver would help lay the groundwork for the first Special Olympics in 1968. The event took place at famed Soldier Field in Chicago, Illinois and featured 1000 athletes from the United States and Canada. The idea that physical activity helps with mental focus was proofed in concept by Dr. James Oliver who was recruited to the Kennedy Foundation by Shriver. Camp Shriver proved the theory accurate as the campers under the Shriver’s care thrived so the first games in 1968 was the ultimate test of that concept. The event went over extremely well, but how did Tennessee police chiefs get involved?
The Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics began in 1981 when Wichita, Kansas Police Chief Richard LaMunyon saw an urgent need to raise funds and increase awareness of Special Olympics. LaMunyon conceived of the idea of a Torch Run as a way to involve local law enforcement personnel in the community with Special Olympics. Three years later, the International Association of Chiefs of Police leant its support and leadership, as well as the involvement of all facets of the law enforcement community-sheriff’s associations, police unions, state, county, municipal, military, and federal law enforcement agencies, and corrections officers.
In 1986 the International Association of Chiefs of Police conference was held in Nashville, Tennessee. During the conference then Metro Police Chief, Joe Casey, initiated the Tennessee Law Enforcement Torch Run. As such the Tennessee relay is named in Chief Casey’s honor. Tennessee law enforcement have been involved ever since.