MCSO carries the torch for Special Olympics - KPAX.com | Continuous News | Missoula & Western Montana

MCSO carries the torch for Special Olympics

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MISSOULA - It’s just a wide spot on Highway 93 at the Lake County line, but on Friday morning it was where a journey of a thousand steps begins for this leg of the Montana Opecial Olympics Law Enforcement Torch Run.

“It’s just a great comradery and I think it’s important and a great way to mix Special Olympics and law enforcement," said Danelle Gjetmundsen.

A handful of MCSO employees ran or biked from the Lake County line back to Missoula, raising money through pledges for Montana Special Olympics. It's a passion for many of the volunteers.

“I have a cousin who is a Special Olympic athlete," said Jerianne Schmidgall. "She was born with disabilities, year and years and years ago, so I’ve been involved since the beginning.”

“I’ve been doing it for the past four years. It’s good to get out here," said MCSO detention officer Travis Nielson. "We see so much negativity in society that it’s good to get out and see the positive side. And these athletes are great guys!”

“Well today I’m going to be like, learning the ropes from everybody here, and my first time and just enjoying everybody,” said Special Olympian Zach Roberts.

The statewide relay started last April, and by the time the Summer Games open in Great Falls in May, law enforcement around the state will have run 2,200 miles. It was 29 miles on Friday for these runners and bikers who support the athletes, the games and physical fitness.

“It really helps them with a lot of their social and behavioral tendencies and helps them relieve the stress that exists in their bodies, so the physical stuff is super important," said volunteer Ondine Barnt.

The only way I could keep up with them is because it’s uphill from the Lake County line to Missoula. Later, they’ll meet up with other members of the MSCO who share a passion for special Olympics.

“We love to support our athletes and they seem to really get a thrill out of being with law enforcement so we try to show them as much support as we can,” said Rebecca Birket.

By Friday afternoon, they were done, there may be some blisters and sore muscles, but the time spent out on the road brings in money for the games and creates memories and meaning for the state’s Special Olympians.

“It makes me feel accomplished. I get to be with them and they get to be with us. Respect, dignity and courage,” said Special Olympian Timothy Zavarelli.

At the end of the day, the team raised about a thousand dollars.

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