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Officers, athletes take to the streets to help Special Olympics

Annual Torch Run helps Illinois Special Olympics

DeKALB – BJ Berkheimer felt pretty good as he charged into Hopkins Park carrying a torch Sunday.

The Sycamore resident was one of the Illinois Special Olympics athletes to join officers from DeKalb, Sycamore, Northern Illinois University and the DeKalb County Sheriff's Office as part of the Law Enforcement Torch Run for Illinois Special Olympics.

“I'm the fastest runner,” Berkheimer said after handing off the torch, known as the Flame of Hope, to be relit.

After running from the DeKalb County Courthouse in Sycamore, the group of about 30 people stopped in Hopkins Park for a short break before heading to the DeKalb Police Department on Lincoln Highway.

The Law Enforcement Torch Run is the largest fundraiser for the Illinois Special Olympics, according to Mac Johnson, the Special Olympics Coordinator for Opportunity House and the Kishwaukee Special Recreation Association. In 27 years, the statewide run has raised $28 million for Illinois Special Olympics.

“This event is wonderful,” Johnson said. “We enjoy seeing the officers involved and supporting Special Olympics. They don't just give us money; we see their efforts when we go the games in the housing, meals and other things.”

NIU Police Chief Tom Phillips said he has been participating in the torch run throughout his career and wanted to continue the tradition after he stepped into the chief role last year.

“It's just an awesome cause,” Phillips said after arriving at Hopkins Park.

DeKalb County law enforcement officers are among some 3,000 that Special Olympics officials expect will run in different legs of the torch run throughout the state. The run will culminate Friday at Illinois State University's Hancock Stadium, where a cauldron will be lit to signify the start of the Summer Games.

“It feels great knowing that we're raising money for them so they can get their time in the spotlight,” said DeKalb patrolman Phillip Brown, who has participated in the torch run for six years.

Mary Cosentino of DeKalb will compete in bocce ball this weekend at the Summer Games at ISU and Illinois Weslyan University in Bloomington-Normal. She said she's ready to have a great time with her friends.

“It doesn't matter who wins or who loses, we just have fun,” Cosentino said.

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