Special Olympics torch travels through Washington County; STGnews Photo Gallery

Law enforcement officers and other participants take part in the Special Olympics torch run, St. George, Utah, May 8, 2014 | Photo by John Teas, St. George News

WASHINGTON COUNTY – On Thursday, a tradition that has taken place for the last 20 years again ran its course.

The annual Law Enforcement Torch Run for the Special Olympics kicked off at 9 a.m. in Hurricane. The second leg of the run took place at 10 a.m. in Washington City, and the final leg took place at 5 p.m. in St. George.

“The real story is the participants and the Hurricane City Police Officers, as well as all the other officers involved in making this a special event,” Coordinator Janie Belliston said during the Hurricane leg of the event.

The torch run is part of a large fundraiser for the Special Olympics. Officers, law enforcement departments, teams and schools purchase their torch run participation shirts as a way to help support the Special Olympics. Private citizens can also purchase shirts to help support the cause.

“Every year we are able to raise about $20,000 for the event with all of the work the officers and departments are able to do,” Belliston said.

“I have run in the torch run every year I have been an officer,” said Sgt. Brandon Buell, of the Hurricane City Police Department. Buell, an 18-year veteran of the department, was celebrating his birthday Thursday, but he took the time to participate in the torch run. “I look forward to this event every year,” he said.

Buell, who led the run as the first torch carrier of the Hurricane leg, participated alongside other Hurricane City officials, including Hurricane City Mayor John Bramall and Hurricane City Chief of Police Lynn Excell.

The route, which started at 539 N. 870 West in Hurricane, next to the Valley Academy Charter School and Hurricane Elementary, ran along side streets, crossed over State Street at 700 West and ended at Three Falls Elementary School. The route was lined with fans cheering on the participants.

Austin Franklin, a 17-year-old member of the Hurricane High School special needs class, and Jackie Newport, a 16-year-old member of the same class, also got to carry the torch.

I am so happy for the Hurricane Police Department and what they are doing for us!” Austin said.

Jackie and Austin each ran the torch part of the way before becoming fatigued and stepping off the route to allow the rest of the procession to pass. Sgt. Stacy Gubler, of the Hurricane Police Department, who brought up the end of the procession, stopped and asked Austin and Jackie to ride in his vehicle for the remainder of the run. “This is so much fun!” Jackie said as she waved to the onlookers from the back of the police vehicle.

The Hurricane leg was followed at 10 a.m. by the Washington City leg of the torch run. Law enforcement officers and Special Olympians carried the torch along a route through Washington City that concluded at the Wal-Mart on Telegraph Street.

The torch run events concluded with the St. George leg, which departed from the Washington County School District building at 5 p.m. St. George Mayor Jon Pike and members of the St. George City Council were present as law enforcement officers and Special Olympians prepared to carry the torch. Pike thanked all in attendance for supporting the cause, and St. George Chief of Police Marlon Stratton also expressed his thanks to the police officers, firefighters and other public safety officials who participated in the day’s events.

“You are incredible,” Stratton said to the Special Olympians.

Belliston said hundreds of participants will be in attendance on Saturday for the Special Olympics South Area track and field competition, which will take place at Desert Hills High School, 828 E. Desert Hills Dr. in St. George.

“Participants will be coming from all over the south region, which is made up of Cedar, Washington County and Kanab,” she said. “Participants are competing at these area games for the state competition in June.”

Belliston said there are 600 Special Olympics athletes residing in Southern Utah.

Click on photo to enlarge it, then use your left-right arrow keys to cycle through the gallery. 

Assistant Editors Mori Kessler and Cami Cox Jim contributed to this report.


  • For information about the Special Olympics South Area track and field competition, visit the event page on the Special Olympics Utah website.
  • To purchase a Law Enforcement Torch Run T-shirt, visit the Special Olympics Utah website.

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