2022 Special Olympics USA Games Announces Tour Stops and Selected Athletes for First-Ever Multi-State Law Enforcement Torch Run® 

Guardians of the Flame of Hope will carry the iconic torch during the Final Leg leading up to the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games taking place in Orlando, Florida, June 5 through 12

Boca Raton, FL – The 2022 Special Olympics USA Games, presented by Jersey Mike’s Subs, announced the Law Enforcement Torch Run® (LETR) for Special Olympics will be a multi-city, two-week tour. Making its way to Orlando, Florida, this iconic symbol of hope will be lit during the Opening Ceremony of the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games.

The LETR Final Leg will begin its two-week journey in Chicago, IL., on Friday, May 20. The Flame of Hope will be lit at Soldier Field, the birthplace of Special Olympics, from the eternal flame that burns there honoring the legacy of Eunice Kennedy Shriver. The LETR Final Leg will stop in multiple cities along the East Coast, including New York City, Philadelphia, Washington D.C., Annapolis, Charlotte, Atlanta, Miami, and Tampa before arriving in Orlando. 

“The 2022 Special Olympics USA Games are just a few short weeks away from kicking off in Orlando. We are honored to have such a tremendous team carrying the Flame of Hope to its final stop where it will shine bright during the entirety of the USA Games,” said Joe Dzaluk, President and CEO of the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games. “The torch will serve as a symbol of inclusion and hope during the USA Games, and we invite everyone to follow the Law Enforcement Torch Run as it makes its way through their cities on its way to ours.” 

For over 40 years, the law enforcement community has served as a dedicated legion of protectors and supporters for Special Olympics. This year’s tour will culminate with the Unified Final Leg team safely delivering  the Flame of Hope to Exploria Stadium in Orlando, on Sunday, June 5. The Flame of Hope will then ignite a custom-made, never-before-seen cauldron during the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games Opening Ceremony. The cauldron will then remain at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex for the duration of the USA Games. 

Six Special Olympics athletes will join the Final Leg of the Run. Each athlete, together as a Unified Final Leg team, will join the Law Enforcement Torch Runners, and all will serve as Guardians of the Flame® as they carry the Flame of Hope from city to city.    

The Special Olympics athletes who will run as part of the Unified Final Leg Team are:

  • Special Olympics Wyoming athlete Izzy Vijiila, who has been involved for 14 years, is currently participating in track and field and basketball. She has also tried her hand in soccer, snowshoe, softball and cycling. Her sporting highlight was her selection for the Wyoming team at the 2010 Special Olympics USA Games. 
  • Special Olympics Southern California athlete Michael Leon is the “most decorated athlete” in his family, having earned dozens of medals. The 12-year sports star is also a leader off the field, having won multiple awards for raising awareness for people with intellectual disabilities. 
  • Special Olympics Georgia athlete Arjun Sharma has been involved for more than six years, competing in swimming, basketball and running. He has completed 11 half marathons and is still counting. In 2020, USA Today named Arjun the “2020 Special Olympics Athlete of the Year for the Greater Atlanta Area.” 
  • Special Olympics Missouri athlete Brett Harper has participated in bowling and track and field for ten years. He was voted Homecoming King at his school, loves to run, enjoys math and video editing and is a great advocate for himself and others.
  • Special Olympics Illinois athlete Aaron Drescher is a lifelong runner, multisport athlete and two-time USA Games gold medal winner. He has competed since 1983.
  • Special Olympics Florida athlete David Rams has been involved for over 20 years, participating in track and field, basketball, softball and just about anything that involves competition. He has won several medals at two different Special Olympics USA Games in athletics (track and field) for Team Florida. He has also been recognized as Miami Dade County Athlete of the Year in both 2014 and 2019. 

The LETR is Special Olympics’ largest grassroots fundraiser and public awareness vehicle in the world. Nearly 100,000 law enforcement members in all 50 U.S. States, 12 Canadian provinces/territories and 44 countries annually contribute to LETR Guardians of the Flame®, ensuring the delivery of the Special Olympics Flame of Hopeto the Opening Ceremony of local Special Olympics competitions, state/provincial Games, and national/regional Games.

The LETR is a labor of love event brought together by the shared excitement, dedication, and generous support of the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games partners. This year’s LETR partners include Presenting Partner Jersey Mike’s Subs; Automobile Provider Toyota; and Supporting Partners, Special Olympics Georgia, Special Olympics Illinois, Gallagher Bassett and Pacira BioSciences. 

The 2022 Special Olympics USA Games, presented by Jersey Mike’s Subs, will bring 5,500 athletes and coaches from all 50 states and the Caribbean to Florida for one of the country’s most cherished sporting events. The USA Games is hosted once every four years and, for the first time in its history, will have 19 Olympic-style team and individual sports and 30 events throughout the event. These USA Games will also celebrate the 50th anniversary of Special Olympics Florida.

To learn more about the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games, visit www.2022USAGames.org. Follow the organization on FacebookInstagram and Twitter.  

For more information on the Final Leg Team and the members participating, visit www.letr-finalleg.org

About the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games 

The 2022 Special Olympics USA Games is scheduled for June 5-12, 2022, in Orlando, Fla. Jersey Mike’s Subs is the Presenting Partner, and the event is hosted by Disney. During this magical week, more than 5,500 athletes and coaches from all 50 states and the Caribbean will travel to Florida to unite in one of the country’s most cherished sporting events. The USA Games is hosted once every four years and showcases 19 Olympic-style team and individual sports and 30 events throughout the week, including forums and VIP receptions. Website: www.2022USAGames.org.

About the 2022 Law Enforcement Torch Run® Final Leg for the USA Games

The Final Leg tradition is for law enforcement officers, representing their state and Torch Run Program, to act as “Guardians of the Flame” and carry the Special Olympics Torch and the “Flame of Hope” to the Opening Ceremonies of the Special Olympics USA Games. This Torch Run event is called the Final Leg because it represents the culmination of Torch Run events that have occurred previously throughout the country. The Torch Run Final Leg is not only a salute to the athletes from around the country who will compete in the Special Olympics USA Games but also an honor for the participating law enforcement officers and athletes who comprise the unified Law Enforcement Torch Run Final Leg Team. The Olympic flame symbolizes the light of spirit, knowledge and life. With identical power and majesty, the Special Olympics “Flame of Hope,” in the entrusted care of the law enforcement community, symbolizes the courage and celebration of diversity that the Special Olympics movement represents. The 2022 Final Leg will precede the Special Olympics USA Games held in Orlando, Florida. The mission of the Final Leg is to create awareness and excitement for Special Olympics, support and attendance of the USA Games, and involve, inspire and motivate runners to increase their level of commitment to Special Olympics when they return to their local Programs. The Final Leg Team is comprised of law enforcement runners, Special Olympics athletes, and Logistics Team members from 49 states representing their Law Enforcement Torch Run and Special Olympics programs. Final Leg runners were chosen for their dedication and commitment to the Law Enforcement Torch Run and Special Olympics by their respective Torch Run Programs throughout the country. For more information on the Law Enforcement Torch Run Final Leg for the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games, please contact Final Leg Committee Chairman and Team Captain John Newnan at [email protected].

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