Special Olympics' 'flame of hope' crosses Rainbow Bridge

Patrol agent shares why he runs

NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. - The Special Olympics "flame of hope" is continuing its journey with a final stop at the opening games at the New York Special Olympics. 

Within Western New York alone, 20 different torch runs have already happened in the past week. Another run is set to culminate along the rainbow bridge shortly after noon Wednesday.

"Law enforcement torch run is not just an event," Patrol Agent Jeffrey Wilson said. "It's a grass roots organization that helps raise money and awareness for the Special Olympics and it's athletes."

It's not just an event and this is not just any run. Wednesday's run will be a meeting of around 300 law enforcement personnel. Some of the runners are from the United States and some are from Canada.
 
Wilson, from the Buffalo Border Patrol Station, will be among them. He started running in these "flame of hope" runs in 1997. It began as more of a way to give back. He had no idea it would take on a much more personal meaning a few years later. 
 
"In 2004 it became a little more meaningful to me," Wilson said. "I had a daughter that was born with down syndrome and today I'm proud to say she now participates in Special Olympics."  
 
Hailey Wilson, Jeffrey's daughter, is 12-years-old. She is participating for the third year in the New York Special Olympics as a swimmer. It's a sport she has earned both gold and silver medals for in the past two summers.
 
The medals are great but Jeffrey said there is so much more that comes from the experience.
 
"Just see the look on these kids faces when they participate," Wilson said. "It's truly life changing just to see the excitement that these kids have." 
 
Patrol Agent Wilson says that in New York State alone, law enforcement raised $2.1 million last year for Special Olympics.
 
That equates to more than 68,000 athletes that can play their sports, in a non-judgmental environment, at no cost to them. 
 
"In general, law enforcement is kind of a tight group of people," Wilson said. "But in Western New York, it's a little above and beyond what the average law enforcement community is."
 
The flame will be taken all the way to the New York Special Olympics opening ceremonies at Siena College in Albany on Friday, June 16. 
 

© 2017 WGRZ-TV


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