Nine members of the East Hampton Town police department will be running in the Law Enforcement Torch Run in support of the Special Olympics Thursday morning, May 31, starting at about 9 AM.
Sergeant Peter Schmitt was a competitive runner when he attended Molloy High School in Queens. He loves running. A veteran of 22 years on the force, he has participated in about 15 of the Torch Runs over the years. But this year’s run is special to him: his son, Matthew Schmitt competed for the first time in the Special Olympics this year.
Matt has a seizure disorder, the elder Schmitt said. A device similar to a pacemaker has been surgically implanted in his brain, to control the tremors. “It has improved his quality of life, greatly,” Schmitt said. Doctors are constantly monitoring Matt, fine tuning the process, bringing him closer and closer to a sense of normality.
This year’s East End Special Olympics, for Matt, were just that: special. Held in Hampton Bays, Matt competed in the 50-yard dash, coming in second, and the softball throw, finishing first. “It gives him a sense of pride and accomplishment,” the sergeant said last week.
The Policeman’s Benevolent Association donates $25 for each runner competing. The run this year starts at the IGA in Montauk and ends at the East Hampton Village police headquarters on Cedar Street. The runners run different distances and take turns carrying the torch. “It’s heavy,” Officer Grace Peterson said about the torch outside the East Hampton police substation, where she met up with several other runners in the event last week. She said she ran one year seven-and-a-half months pregnant, going five miles.
Besides Peterson and Schmitt, other runners in the department include Joe Montiel, Sgt. Barry Johnson, Ryan Balnis, Robert Stone, Chief Michael Sarlo, Luis Morales, and Frank Sokolowski.
For Morales, it is his first time running in the event. A dedicated runner, he is the only one this year who is going to run the entire course, which, according to Google Maps, is 13.7 miles. The torch should complete its course by about 11 AM.
After the East Hampton department finishes, the torch is transported west, to neighboring departments, who will have their own runs. The torch is carried in various runs by departments across the state, ending up in western New York. Departments across the country will also be having their own Torch Runs.
According to the Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics website, the first torch run was in Wichita, Kansas, in support of Special Olympics Kansas. The chief of the Wichita department, Richard LaMunyon, in 1983, presented the program to the International Association of Chiefs of Police. It quickly took off, and now, the website says, the Law Enforcement Torch Run is the largest group for raising public awareness and funding for the Special Olympics.
“The special Olympics are such an inspirational event, and a wonderful opportunity for special needs children,” Chief Sarlo said. He has participated in over a dozen Torch Runs over the years.
“The continued support of the Special Olympics is an important part of what our local law enforcement does, and we are proud to play a small part in helping make the event possible,” he said.