Clay County Crime Report
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Torch run lights the fire for Special Olympics athletes headed to state games

By Lee Wardlaw lee@claytodayonline.com
Posted 4/20/23

FLEMING ISLAND – In a fireworks-filled continuation of the Law Enforcement Torch Run, runners swarmed down to the Publix parking lot on Fleming Island on Friday, April 14, morning.

The …

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Torch run lights the fire for Special Olympics athletes headed to state games

Posted

FLEMING ISLAND – In a fireworks-filled continuation of the Law Enforcement Torch Run, runners swarmed down to the Publix parking lot on Fleming Island on Friday, April 14, morning.

The ceremonial run to honor Special Olympics athletes kickstarted at 10 a.m. But first, the Clay County Fire Department temporarily halted traffic heading on U.S. Highway 17 on Hibernia Road to hang a beautiful, oversized American flag that would soon later greet runners overhead as they took their first steps of the “great race.”

The flag was hung vertically via four ropes: two that were attached to the top of an overextended ladder from a county fire truck more than 30 feet above, and a second pair that was fixated to the truck and a sheriff’s office vehicle parked across the street.

When the event began, a flurry of runners, walkers and bicyclists shot off into the abyss, which was soon followed by a dedicated motorcade of civilian golf carts, Clay County Sheriff’s Office police cars, officers from Green Cove Springs Police Department and motorcycles.

The purpose of the torch run was to recognize the county’s Special Olympics team to the state games at Walt Disney World.

The run followed a 3.4-mile circuit that crisscrossed U.S. 17 to the Black Creek Trail, which then went north on the trail towards Village Square Parkway, then to Town Center Boulevard and Fleming Plantation Boulevard.

As the parade-like event with a festival-style atmosphere continued to unfold, the crescendo of the Torch Run peaked as the group traveled through Village Square Parkway in the heart of Fleming Island.

Here, the legendary, ambitious, and well-accomplished Fleming Island High “Eagle Band One,” which performed at the 2023 New Year’s Day Parade in London, joined in on the fun, marching along with athletes, officers and other participants.

As the event unfolded, the community at large passionately rooted on runners, walkers and bikers from the sidewalks of the street interconnecting the veins of the Fleming Island community. That included employees from Baptist Medical Center Clay, students from Thunderbolt Elementary, neighbors and several others.

“We just had such a great turnout all the way around. We appreciate everybody that came out to support us. It was just great,” said organizer and CCSO Sgt. Zach Cox.

Cox doubled down on what makes the event so special to the Clay County community.

“At an event like this, it’s great to have everyone come back together for one cause, one great movement. We stress that it’s not a run or a race but a movement for the Special Olympics. That’s what it’s all about,” he said.

The Torch Run follows up the most successful Tip-A-Cop program. Together, the two county-based events serve as crucial fundraisers to send nearly two dozen county athletes to the Florida Special Olympics Games at Walt Disney World next month.

“Sending them down to Orlando to compete (in the games), it means the world to them, because some of them don’t have the opportunity to travel, don’t have the opportunity to leave the county for different things. All of the funds that we raise here allows them to participate, which is so important. They absolutely love it, and it warms all of our hearts,” Cox said.

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