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Updated Feb 8, 2017 - 11:12 am

Bocce ball and basketball: How you can help Arizona’s Special Olympics athletes

This article is Sponsored by Sanderson Ford

In any athletic endeavor, there is physical risk. During Special Olympics events, the most prevalent physical ailments are people with lumps in their throats, tears on their cheeks and hearts that want to burst.

Emotions will run high Feb. 17 at the Law Enforcement Torch Run Guardian Games at Westgate Entertainment District. In a first-of-its-kind event, unified teams of four will compete in nine events located throughout Westgate. Each team will consist of a Special Olympics athlete, two sponsor participants and one law enforcement officer.

Registration begins at 8:30 the morning of the games. The opening ceremony is at 9:30. Competition begins at 10 a.m. and lasts until 2 p.m.

Sponsored by Sanderson Ford, the concept of the games is to develop a closer relationship between Special Olympics athletes, law enforcement and Arizona businesses through a fun and unique format. The nine featured events are bocce ball, basketball, corn hole toss, floor ball, ladder ball, last man standing, video game challenge, LETR experience and Sanderson experience.

The Law Enforcement Torch Run is a series of intra-state/intra-nation runs that take place in spring and summer in the United States and around the world. Throughout the course of the torch run, participants collect donations from individuals and businesses, asking to help raise support for Special Olympics athletes.

All money raised from the torch run goes directly to support Special Olympics athletes in Arizona. The Law Enforcement Torch Run puts on statewide events such as tip-a-cop, cop on top of doughnut shops, golf tournaments, polar plunges and inmate fundraising — just to name a few.

“The torch run is just a bunch of agencies coming together with one passion, of helping the athletes out,” said corrections officer Ana Rivera in a YouTube video. She said the event lets athletes “know that they have the ability to do something and not to let anyone put them down and that they are somebody special.”

A variety of sponsor packages are available for the run, ranging from $500 to $10,000 for teams and events.

“I got involved so I could help the athletes,” corrections officer Chris Kriebel said. “But, as it turns out, they make me a better person, too.”

Special Olympics Arizona empowers children and adults with intellectual disabilities to live healthy, fulfilling and meaningful lives to the fullest extent of their ability. SOAZ athletes attain acceptance and respect through inclusive health, leadership and social justice programs, as well as year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports.

More than 18,000 athletes participate in Special Olympics Arizona and more than 15,000 volunteers assist.

However you choose to participate, this is truly one event everybody wins.

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Sanderson Ford is a proud sponsor of the Arizona Law Enforcement Torch Run (LETR). The mission of the LETR is to raise funds and awareness for Special Olympics Arizona. Law enforcement agencies and personnel carry the Flame of Hope Torch in dedication to the athletes of Special Olympics Arizona throughout the state.