Although COVID-19 altered the way the Special Olympics Arkansas Law Enforcement Torch Run was conducted this week, it didn’t put out the flame.

Normally, the torch run would have started around the state Monday and Thursday would have been “the big run from Little Rock all the way into Searcy with opening ceremonies at Harding University on Thursday night,” according to Searcy Police Chief Steve Hernandez.

Instead, a torch parade convoy Thursday morning had approximately 75 police units from around the state in it, including the Arkansas State Police, FBI, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Searcy Police Department and the White County Sheriff’s Office.

“We started right in front of the Capitol in Little Rock,” Hernandez said. “We did the exact same route we would be doing on the torch run itself.”

Harding gave special permission to the torch run participants to conclude the parade in First Security Stadium, using social distancing, he said.

“This is where we usually come in and finish it out, taking a couple of laps around the track with for our athletes to see the torch coming in,” Hernandez said. “So we kind of finished off our day how we would have finished it out. With COVID-19, we were all spread out and socially distanced.

“There were actually some athletes on the sides of roads in some of the towns, waving to us as we went by. We drove past a couple of the facilities where some of the athlete clients are at; like Pathfinders in Jacksonville. They had a bunch of clients out, waving to us and cheering us on.”

Hernandez said the Searcy Police Department had three motorcycles and three police cars participating in the parade, about 10 officers in all. Even though the officers couldn’t have the torch run, Hernandez said they still wanted to do something to raise awareness for the 14,000 Special Olympics Arkansas athletes.

Hernandez said the White County Sheriff’s Office “had about four units in the convoy.”

Special Olympics Arkansas, which would have been celebrating its 50-year anniversary, was canceled in April.

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