01 Jun Montana Deputy Part of Torch Run for USA Games
The 2022 Special Olympics USA Games announced the Law Enforcement Torch Run® (LETR) will for the first time be a multi-state, two-week tour where members of law enforcement and Special Olympics athletes will carry the ignited torch – the Flame of Hope – through major cities down the East Coast and make their way to Orlando to light the custom-made cauldron during the Opening Ceremony for the USA Games.
Representing Montana is Deputy Mark Hernandez. Mark has been involved with Torch Run for the past 17 years since he started as a Deputy with the Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office in Montana . He’s the coordinator for the annual Polar Plunge which averages $50,000 raised every year and was inducted into the Montana Law Enforcement Torch Run Hall of Fame in 2016.
Mark is married and has four children (three girls and one boy) and five grandchildren (all girls). Mark’s first ever Torch Run was a biking leg in the rain over a mountain pass with his three year old son in a baby seat on the back of his bike. He was forever hooked.the
LETR is Special Olympics’ largest grassroots fundraiser and public awareness vehicle in the world. Nearly 100,000 law enforcement members in all 50 U.S. states, 12 Canadian provinces/territories, and 44 countries annually contribute to LETR Guardians of the Flame®, ensuring the delivery of the Special Olympics Flame of Hope to the Opening Ceremony of local Special Olympics competitions, state/provincial Games, and national/regional Games.
The Final Leg tradition is for law enforcement officers, representing their state and Torch Run Program, to act as “Guardians of the Flame” and carry the Special Olympics Torch and the “Flame of Hope” to the Opening Ceremonies of the Special Olympics USA Games. This Torch Run event is called the Final Leg because it represents the culmination of Torch Run events that have occurred previously throughout the country. The Torch Run Final Leg is not only a salute to the athletes from around the country who will compete in the Special Olympics USA Games but also an honor for the participating law enforcement officers and athletes who comprise the unified Law Enforcement Torch Run Final Leg Team.
The Olympic flame symbolizes the light of spirit, knowledge, and life. With identical power and majesty, the Special Olympics “Flame of Hope,” in the entrusted care of the law enforcement community, symbolizes the courage and celebration of diversity that the Special Olympics movement represents. The mission of the Final Leg is to create awareness and excitement for Special Olympics, support, and attendance of the USA Games, and involve, inspire, and motivate runners to increase their level of commitment to Special Olympics when they return to their local Programs. The Final Leg Team is comprised of law enforcement runners, Special Olympics athletes, and Logistics Team members from 49 states representing their Law Enforcement Torch Run and Special Olympics programs. Final Leg runners were chosen for their dedication and commitment to the Law Enforcement Torch Run and Special Olympics by their respective Torch Run Programs throughout the country.