Law Enforcement Torch Run
King City Police Capt. Robert Masterson (front row, from left), Chief James Hunt, firefighter Tom Nuck and Code Enforcement Officer Maria Hernandez begin the Law Enforcement Torch Run near King City Police Department as part of the city’s participation in carrying the Flame of Hope toward the Special Olympics Summer Games. (Sean Roney)

KING CITY — Police officers carried the Special Olympics Flame of Hope through the streets of King City last Wednesday as part of the Law Enforcement Torch Run.

Seventeen runners, including staff from King City Police Department and one member from King City Fire Department, were the first to carry the torch through Monterey County before sending it off to Greenfield on its way to the Summer Games held in Santa Clara this past weekend.

Runners in King City traveled a loop route, which began and ended at the police department. They exchanged the torch among the runners, and were escorted along their path by patrol cars.

Law Enforcement Torch Run
Runners from King City Police Department and King City Fire Department begin their mile-long run around the town as part of the Law Enforcement Torch Run last Wednesday. (Sean Roney)

Detective Daisy Gurley said she changed the course this year after being involved with the Torch Run for the past five years in order to bring more visibility to the Broadway portion of the run.

“We’re hoping this can be more of a community partnership with law enforcement,” Gurley said of goals to increase community participation in the future.

She noted the Torch Run is large, as it is part of supporting Special Olympics athletes not only in California, but also worldwide.

“I was a Special Olympics coach in Merced when I went to school there, so for me it’s personal and I love doing it every year,” Sgt. Josh Partida said of his participation in the run. “We get to be with our coworkers in a more fun setting, instead of being at work, and it’s fun to be out here with the community.”

Law Enforcement Torch Run
Adriana Granados (from left), Records Technician Elisa Martinez, Code Enforcement Officer Maria Hernandez, and Executive Assistant Teresita Garcia run with the Flame of Hope during the initial portion of the Law Enforcement Torch Run held last Wednesday. (Sean Roney)

The mile loop in King City was designed to keep the torch moving on time, as the torch traveled through South Monterey County before going to Salinas, then to the Monterey Peninsula. The Monterey County run ended with Marina, then headed to Santa Cruz County on Thursday.

Cristal Sanchez, Youth Center Division Director for Monterey County Probation Department, traveled with the torch for the entire journey through the Salinas Valley, coordinating with the local departments to ensure the entire operation was smooth as they handed off the flame.

Sanchez, who is also the Assistant State Director of the Law Enforcement Torch Run in Northern California, said going to the Summer Games and being a part of the Special Olympics has not only been a source of awe at watching the athleticism, but also has improved her work.

“It made me a better officer throughout my career because I’ve learned to be patient and compassionate for others,” Sanchez said. “We all have something going on in our lives.”

Law Enforcement Torch Run
King City Police Officer Robert Ramon (left) and Officer Michael Hernandez are accompanied by Officer Cody Hughes in a patrol vehicle as more than a dozen guardians run with the Flame of Hope as part of the Law Enforcement Torch Run on June 26. (Sean Roney)

The Summer Games included more than 700 athletes with disabilities from throughout Northern California, and the Law Enforcement Torch Run included an estimated 3,000 personnel ranging from police to military to community runners.

Most participants ran with event shirts, while some officers completed the run in uniform. In King City, Sgt. Armando Mendoza wore his uniform.

“I have respect for the ones who run in gear because it is difficult, especially when you have a vest and belt,” Gurley said. “Towards the end, I was trying to keep up.”

The Torch Run was also a fundraiser for local agencies. Runners paid fees to participate and that money went toward the Special Olympics. Gurley said King City raised more than $200 during their run.

Law Enforcement Torch Run
Sgt. Joshue Partida (left) and Records Technician Aubrie MacKenzie run along Broadway during the eastward portion of the Law Enforcement Torch Run last Wednesday. (Sean Roney)

Sanchez said funds collected not only go toward transportation and supplies, but also helps athletes with things like health visits. She said the county raised a collective $24,000 this year.

Athletes in the Summer Games competed in bocce, swimming, tennis and track and field. Law enforcement personnel from Northern California also joined the Summer Games to be part of the Wall of Honor to welcome athletes and to present awards.

Sanchez said the officers present continue to raise funds, and at the end of the games, if they’ve hit a fundraising goal, they entertain the athletes by being pushed into a pool in their uniforms.

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Sean Roney is a freelance reporter for King City Rustler and Salinas Valley Tribune, a unified publication of Greenfield News, Soledad Bee and Gonzales Tribune. He covers general news for the Salinas Valley communities in South Monterey County.


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