ROCHELLE – The annual police torch run took place this past Wednesday afternoon to help raise funds for the Special Olympics.
The torch run is a nationwide event where members of local law enforcement officers meet the neighboring law enforcement officers at the county line, hand the torch off, then run it across the whole county. This continues on, and represents the lighting of the real Special Olympic torch in California.
The popular event has been going on since 1981 and has raised more than $600 million since its creation, but it also helps connect the community with the police force.
“This event gets us out there in a different light and anytime we can get out there and the community can see us doing things like this, we can interact on a different level,” expressed Rochelle Police Chief Eric Higby.
The run in Rochelle begins at the corner of Flagg Road and IL Route 251, where the Rochelle officers receive the torch from Winnebago County officers. It then continues south to IL Route 38 to Lincoln Highway through the downtown area, up Washington Street and ends at the airport where the torch is handed off to Lee County officers.
Over the years, the route has changed to help with the flow of traffic and community involvement.
“We used to run all the way down 251 to the airport, but that caused congestion on the road,” said Higby. “Also going through the downtown area, we pass by more buildings and businesses than we did on 251.”
The event is put on by the local law enforcement, but community members like to participate as well. Many residents line up the sidewalks to watch the officers run by, some of them taking photos and others handing out cold bottles of water. Law enforcement family members and city workers joined in the run as well.
“We had officers, dispatchers, their family, city people and even Rochelle Mayor John Bearrows participate in the run this year,” Higby added.
Higby said his staff looks forward to this event each year because it helps support a good cause nationally, while also bringing awareness to law enforcement locally.
“This is our chance to give back. We are not really a fundraising organization, so anytime we help people out and interact with the citizens,” said Higby. “Many of these people would not know who we are unless they call for help.”