AUSTIN, Texas - Tuesday morning Austin police officers and law enforcement from across Central Texas ran nearly 1.5 miles up to the steps of the Texas State Capitol as part of the Special Olympics Texas Torch Run.
The Torch Run began back in Kansas in 1981 as a way to bring awareness. Now, nearly 100,000 law enforcement officers will participate annually.
President of Special Olympics Texas Tim Martin said the run always means so much to the athletes.
"Our athletes look at law enforcement as the heroes they are," Martin said.
Law enforcement is known as "Guardians of the Flame" and alongside athletes will carry the "Flame of Hope" during the run to celebrate the opening ceremonies of local competitions.
"Law enforcement has always been a strong supporter of the Special Olympics," said Austin Police Chief Joseph Chacon. "It's one of the anchor organizations that we support."
Martin said he appreciates the support from all the different law enforcement agencies that came out to show their support.
'They're doing this on their own time," he said. "They're making sure our athletes know they're there for them...it's absolutely amazing,"
He adds that for many of the athletes, it's not just about the games and events they're competing in.
"It's not just sports to them, it's their life, it's their social network, it is their connection to the community," said Martin.
Chacon echoed the importance. As a parent to a special needs child, he said events and programs like these, gives children the opportunity to be included. He added seeing so many from his department come out and participate is incredible.
"It gives you joy and this sense of welcoming that you don't get from a lot of things," Chacon said.
For more information on Special Olympics Texas, visit their website.