One place for all: Special Olympics torch runs through town

Sun City Poms welcome Special Olympics athletes as they walk the red carpet at the Law Enforcement Torch Run and Community Carnival Celebration May 3. (photo by Arianna Grainey)

There was much more involved to the torch passing between the Paradise Valley Police Department and the Scottsdale Police Department, as a kick-off to the Special Olympics was sparked at the Law Enforcement Torch Run and Community Carnival Celebration.

The inaugural fair filled with bubbles, interactive activities, vendors and raffles attracted people of all ages Thursday afternoon, May 3, behind Kiva Elementary School in Paradise Valley.

The old adage of “unity in the community” was evident as the flame of togetherness spread throughout the atmosphere.

That spark was aflame as Valley families gathered to see participants in the ceremonious torch passing and Special Olympics athletes descend upon the grounds after officials at the Paradise Valley Police Department completed their 1.5-mile trek.

Among the youngest in attendance at the Paradise Valley function was sleeping 8-month-old Eamon Shay in a stroller while his brother, Liam, enjoyed playing with bubbles.

“I like those bubbles,” said Liam who had to be coaxed away from massive, rainbow-laden bubbles by his parents, Erica Hendrix and John Shay. They knew about the event from their neighbor who was working the cotton candy stand.

“I wanted to see the torch passed,” Mr. Shay said of their first time at the event.

“We wanted to come and see what it’s all about,” said Rima Nasser who attended with her kids, Emma and Leon as they spent time at the petting zoo.

Paradise Valley Police Officer Steven McGhee was the main event organizer.
He credited community members along with the Kiva Elementary School family who helped initiate the first carnival that followed the police-led torch run.

“This is a complete community effort,” Mr. McGhee said. “This is an environment that promotes inclusion.”

An inclusive environment was important to him and many honoring the Special Olympics’ 50th Anniversary. He mentioned three family members of his who participated in the Special Olympics and recognized the importance of making sure no one is left out of beneficial activities.

Ashley Petersen attended with her nephew, Max, 3, who has Down Syndrome.

“We hope that one day he can participate in the Special Olympics,” said Ms. Petersen of Scottsdale, who learned of the event through the police department’s Facebook page.

She was accompanied by her friend, Chelsea Hassler of Phoenix and her son, Dillon, 2.

“We are here with Max and we are supporting the Special Olympics,” Ms. Hassler said.

Nannette and Annie Salasek of Phoenix manned a booth for Raising Special Kids. They were among the many vendors offering information about available resources for those with special needs.

“We help parents that have children with disabilities and we are happy to support this awesome event for the Special Olympics that brings a lot of joy and fun,” Ms. Salasek said.

In addition to the Paradise Valley Police Chief Peter Wingert, other officials included Vice Mayor Jerry Bien-Willner who presented a signed proclamation from the mayor. He shared a message of appreciation from the town to the Olympians and the community for their unifying efforts.

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