Law Enforcement Torch Run
Officers from Greenfield Police Department guide the Special Olympics torch toward the Greenfield Civic Center to finish their part of the Law Enforcement Torch Run last Wednesday. (Sean Roney)

SALINAS VALLEY — Police officers, prison personnel and community members carried the Flame of Hope through the streets of both Greenfield and Soledad last Wednesday as part of the Law Enforcement Torch Run.

Greenfield had more than a dozen runners and Soledad had more than two-dozen participants, who received the torch from King City before sending it off to Salinas on its way to the Summer Games held in Santa Clara this past weekend.

Runners in Greenfield began at Greenfield High School and traveled north to the Greenfield Civic Center. The Soledad route went from the Windmill restaurant parking lot along Front Street, and then turned on Main Street to end at the Soledad Police Department. Both groups were accompanied by patrol cars for safety.

While onlookers cheered for both groups, Soledad had a group of dozens waiting at the finish line with signs.

“My favorite part was when they were running back, all the way here,” said Jerry Guzman Lopez, a student at Main Street Middle School in Soledad.

Lopez designed a sign with friends and was cheering on the officers during the final stretch of the run.

“It’s a humbling experience receiving the community support,” said Sgt. Jorge Gutierrez, organizer for the Greenfield run. “It instills a sense of pride not only for being a member of Greenfield Police Department, but also a part of this community.”

Officers handed off the torch during the Greenfield run to have more than one guardian of the flame. Officer Joseph Santiago ran in his uniform.

Sgt. Andrew Carrillo carried the torch in Soledad, and wore his uniform rather than the more casual shirts other runners chose. He said he has never run with anything like a weighted vest, and compared such a workout to running in uniform.

“I thought this was an amazing opportunity to do something for the community and for myself as well to be part of a group,” Carrillo said. “I work at the Soledad Police Department and am very proud to work here and I wanted to display my uniform. It was a fun experience. It was awesome. I’d do it again.”

The Soledad run was mostly runners from Correctional Training Facility, with four members of Soledad Police Department. Greenfield’s run included five police personnel, interns from the city and local residents.

Soledad Police Officer Jesus Trujillo organized the Soledad event and said he coordinated with the prison for their run. He said supporting the cause was why he participated year after year and wanted to be an organizer this year, his second time doing so.

For some, such as Victim Assistance Advocate Caitlan Zamudio of Soledad PD, the event was their first time on a mile-long run. She said she started preparing in March for the run.

“It got me into running, too, it was so freeing,” Zamudio said of the experience. “Some of them weren’t runners and some were pro runners, so it was intimidating to be in the front. I kept myself in the front so I wouldn’t fall too far behind.”

Zamudio said that while people cheered and some onlookers came out of businesses to wave, she’d like to see more participation next year. Gutierrez said numerous onlookers cheered during the Greenfield run.

“I heard a lot of cheers out there for our runners,” Gutierrez said. He explained the route “gives us the opportunity to be more visible and for the community to come out and support us.”

The Summer Games included more than 700 athletes with disabilities from throughout Northern California, and the Law Enforcement Torch Run included an estimated 3,000 personnel ranging from police to military to community runners.

While the Summer Games is the large highlight event locally, there are other opportunities for athletes to compete.

Teacher Manuel Perea said students from Soledad regularly participate in Special Olympics toward the end of the school year in Monterey. There, they partake in sports such as basketball, soccer and track. He was one of the community organizers behind the finish-line support.

“This is nice to get everybody out and see who they’re running for, and have the students see that the community supports them as well,” Perea said.

The Torch Run was also a fundraiser for local agencies. Runners paid fees to participate and that money went toward the Special Olympics. Zamudio said participants also had the option to donate in addition to the entry fee.

Perea noted the fundraising efforts for Special Olympics athletes helps pay for transportation, food and shirts, as well as getting the youth active. He said anyone interested in contributing locally could contact the Soledad Unified School District to get in touch with him.

Gutierrez noted the Greenfield participants raised $2,200 for the Special Olympics this year, some from fees and some from donations.

Law enforcement personnel from Northern California also joined the Summer Games to be part of the Wall of Honor to welcome athletes and to present awards. Two officers from Greenfield, Gutierrez and Javier Ruelas, were among them.

“We’re proud of the city we work for and the residents we represent, especially when we’re out there running in support of these athletes,” Gutierrez said.

Previous articleLittle League All-Star tournament ends 2nd week
Next article4th of July celebrations set for South Monterey County
Sean Roney is a freelance reporter for King City Rustler and Salinas Valley Tribune, a unified publication of Greenfield News, Soledad Bee and Gonzales Tribune. He covers general news for the Salinas Valley communities in South Monterey County.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here