Tauranga Police will join some of the region's top Special Olympics athletes this Saturday to carry the Special Olympics Flame of Hope through central Tauranga.
The event is part of the Law Enforcement Torch Run, which will see torches relayed from each end of New Zealand to Wellington – the venue for the 2017 Special Olympics National Summer Games.
Similar in style to the Olympic torch relay, the LETR is a series of runs and fundraising events that raise awareness and money for the Special Olympics movement.
The Tauranga leg will begin at 2pm from Te Awanui waka at the northern end of The Strand.
Special Olympics athletes and local police will carry the Flame of Hope along The Strand, up Devonport Road and Elizabeth Street, down Grey Street and back to The Strand, where they will be greeted by Tauranga Mayor Greg Brownless at around 2.30pm.
Globally, more than 90,000 police professionals and supporters across 35 countries participate in Law Enforcement Torch Runs.
“The LETR is one of the highlights of major Special Olympics events,” says Special Olympics New Zealand chief executive, Kathy Gibson, “and this year we are excited that the torches will travel to all regions and clubs taking part in the National Summer Games.”
Kathy says in addition to raising awareness of Special Olympics in New Zealand, the LETR also helps to promote and support the Special Olympics' Athlete Leadership Programme – a scheme that provides athletes with the tools and experiences to become leaders in their own right who speak for themselves.
“The support of the New Zealand Police and other service personnel is hugely valued, and we look forward to taking to the streets with them as we move throughout the country,” she says.
Inspector Mark Harrison, of Palmerston North, is Director of LETR NZ.
“Once again we are delighted to be able to support the build up to the National Summer Games. Law enforcement staff are proud to run alongside the athletes through our communities as the Flame of Hope makes its way to the Games in Wellington.
“The Flame represents so much of what policing is about – it stands for hope, courage, opportunity, inspiration and equality.”
The Tauranga leg of the LETR is one of 31 torch run events taking place throughout New Zealand in the lead-up to the Games.
More than 1300 athletes from 42 Special Olympics Clubs and three schools will take part in this year's event, which will take place from November 27 to December 1.
Held every four years, the Special Olympics New Zealand National Summer Games is the largest event for athletes with intellectual disabilities in the country.
The Games are run by Special Olympics New Zealand, which provides a year-round programme of sports training and competition for children and adults with intellectual disabilities.
It is a different organisation to Paralympics New Zealand, which supports people with physical disabilities to compete in elite international para sport events.