The Law Enforcement Torch Run® (LETR) for Special Olympics is the largest grassroots fundraiser for Special Olympics. More than 90,000 law enforcement members in all 50 U.S. States, 12 Canadian provinces/territories, and 44 other countries contribute to LETR efforts annually as Guardians of the Flame®, ensuring the delivery of the Special Olympics Flame of Hope to the Opening Ceremonies of local Special Olympics competitions, state/provincial Games, and national/regional Games. At its most basic level, the Torch Run is an actual running event where law enforcement officers and Special Olympics athletes run the “Flame of Hope” into the Opening Ceremonies of Special Olympics competitions.
The LETR Final Leg for the Special Olympics Winter World Games Austria 2017, will take place from 9 March – 18 March 2017. A team of 133 members – which includes 88 law enforcement officer runners, 10 Special Olympics athletes, and logistics personnel – will serve as Guardians of the Flame as they run the Flame of Hope throughout Austria.
Recently United States Probation Officer Toni Duncan was honored by being one of two Maryland LETR representatives to run the Final Leg for the 2017 Special Olympics Winter World Games in Austria.
Adam Hays, himself a 2011 LETR Final Leg runner in Greece, caught up with Toni Duncan to ask her a few questions.
Here is that interview.
Where do you work and what do you do?
I am a United States Probation Officer for the District of Maryland.
How long have you been working for your current job?
I have worked there for 19 years.
When and how did you become involved with the Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics?
I became involved while at the Federal gym running on the treadmill and an ATF Agent Kevin McCann asked me if I wanted to buy a t shirt. Somehow a few months later (former MD LETR Director) John Newnan took me out to lunch with a Special Olympics Maryland (SOMD) staff and asked me if I wanted to be the Federal Coordinator for SOMD. That was probably 15 years ago.
How did you find out you were selected as part of the Final Leg team for the Law Enforcement Torch Run of the 2017 World Winter Games in Austria?
I found out I was selected to be part of the Final Leg team when current MD LETR Director Danielle Bradshaw-Lee called me. I was shocked for a myriad of reasons but mostly because I had no idea I had been nominated. Honestly, I didn’t have any idea how people were selected and didn’t have any idea selections were being made. I called her the next day. I should have answered her that minute because there was no way I would say no!
When do you start your adventure and how long will you be there for?
We leave for Bregenz, Austria on Tuesday 3/7. We will begin carrying the Flame of Hope on Thursday 3/9 and run daily until 3/18. Later in the evening of 3/18 the opening ceremonies begin. We plunge on 3/19 (in 8 or 9 degree weather!) We will return home on 3/20.
How has your involvement up to this point in Special Olympics Maryland influenced your personal and professional life and do you think it will make an even larger impact at the international level?
Special Olympics has influenced every aspect of my life. My two daughters have grown up hearing about Special Olympics since they were born. They have learned tolerance, acceptance and inclusion from meeting amazing athletes like Adam Hays. 😉. I have been so blessed by being accepted into this extended family of Law Enforcement Officers, athletes and their families. I have never met a more caring group of individuals all unified and working towards the same goal of spreading awareness and raising financial support for the SOMD athletes and their families. As for the International aspect, I can only imagine that my local family will grow to worldwide. I have been communicating with my team and intend to meet a few prior to the World games in Austria. It appears that the kindness shown within Maryland is not at all limited to boundaries. I am really looking forward to making new lifelong friendships.
As torch bearers, you carry the flame in your heart; as you run and speak, what is one thing you hope to say to gather excitement for the World Games and Special Olympics in general?
The one thing I hope to say to gather excitement?
My goodness, I think I would say join us!! I have not met anyone that has gotten to know an athlete or witnessed the excitement on an athlete’s face while receiving a medal who has not become involved more deeply. I always ask those who stand still long enough to listen, to get involved. I have never had anyone disappointed who did. What an amazing organization.
Lastly, is there anything you hope to see or experience in Austria while running with the flame of hope? What do you hope to bring back with you?
I hope to experience what I have witnessed for years on the state level with Special Olympics Maryland on a worldwide level. I will be fortunate enough to meet Law Enforcement Officers that share the same passion that I do for Special Olympic athletes and their families from Hawaii, Hong Kong, Australia, Germany and so many others. I believe I will bring back new friendships, new experiences and hopefully new ideas that have yet to be tried in Maryland to make Special Olympics Maryland the #1 fund raising organization in the World again!!
This article was written by Special Olympics Maryland