The Special Olympics of New Jersey kicked off their annual Summer Games Friday evening with athletes marching into The College of New Jersey’s football stadium in the parade of counties. This year, more than 3,000 officers from 340 New Jersey police departments participated in charity runs covering 26 routes over 750 miles through more than 300 towns.
The night before, the 34th annual Law Enforcement Torch Run got under way shortly after dawn in the shadow of High Point State Park and continue through Wantage, Sussex Borough, Hardyston and Hamburg, where participants will be joined by a separate contingent of runners who will begin at Mountain Creek in Vernon and continue through Hardyston and Hamburg.
The two teams, which will include more than 100 officers, will link up at the intersection of state Routes 23 and 94 in Hamburg and be joined by a third contingent of runners leaving from the Historic Courthouse in Newton shortly before 7 a.m.
The torch run, which will take in more than 30 miles throughout Sussex County alone, will continue later in the day through Morris and Somerset counties before arriving for the lighting of the cauldron at The College of New Jersey in Ewing tonight.
Along the way, members of law enforcement agencies including the State Police, Secret Service, and Sussex and Morris County prosecutors’ offices will be accompanied by many of the athletes themselves who will be taking part in the competition, which will last all weekend.
The athletes – some 2,500 – as is tradition, wore t-shirts color coded by county, which said “Genuine Jersey Pride” on the back. They will complete in a number of sports over the weekend.
The athletes are led into stadium by police honor guards and welcomed by a bevy of law enforcement officers offering “high fives.”
The first to enter the stadium was the Law Enforcement Torch Run, also an annual event in which police officers and friends run the torch into the stadium follow an all-day of running it across the state.
This year, more than 3,000 officers from 340 New Jersey police departments participated in charity runs covering 26 routes over 750 miles through more than 300 towns.