Carrying the torch

Published 10:10 pm Thursday, June 9, 2011

Torch: About a dozen Suffolk police officers ran 7.5 miles across the northern part of the city while carrying the Special Olympics Torch of Hope Thursday as part of the Virginia Law Enforcement Torch Run. The run, during which 2,000 officers covered 1,900 miles of Virginia, will end today in Richmond.

In grueling heat and with traffic forming behind them, about a dozen Suffolk police officers carried the Torch of Hope through the city Thursday to benefit Special Olympics Virginia.

Participating in the Virginia Law Enforcement Torch Run has been a tradition for Suffolk police and other departments throughout the state for 26 years.

Suffolk Police Chief Thomas Bennett, who participated for the second time Thursday, said he thinks it’s important for Suffolk to be a part of the event.

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“It’s important to use to support Special Olympics,” Bennett said. “It’s just a small thing we can do.”

For this year’s Torch Run, which started June 3, more than 2,000 officers carried the Special Olympics Torch of Hope about 1,900 miles across Virginia. The run ends today in Richmond.

One of the longest parts of the Hampton Roads run, the Suffolk leg spanned 7.5 miles, with a path following Bridge Road from Lakeview Medical Center to the Isle of Wight County line.

Two officers, Paul Hutta and Tommy Cain, completed the entire length of the run.

This was the fourth time Cain has participated in the run.

“I do it to help represent and show support for Special Olympics,” Cain said. “I also do it to represent the city of Suffolk.”

The officers fought against severe heat during the run, with a heat index reaching past 100 degrees.

Cain said of all the torch runs he’s completed, this was definitely the hottest day yet.

Both he and Bennett joked it seems to be a tradition for the run to be on the hottest day up to that point in the year.

Regardless of the heat, Bennett said the run is always a good time for the officers to unite for a worthy cause.

“We always have a good group,” he said. “We enjoy it. It’s something fun we can do together a support a good cause.”

Cain said he feels participating in the run is a way to give back to members of the community.

“As police officers, we support the community and protect the community,” he said. “Special Olympics participants are special citizens, and we should represent them with a little something extra.”

The Suffolk officers handed off the torch to the Virginia State Police, who carried it across the James River Bridge to Newport News.

The last leg of the run will go through Richmond today, ending at the University of Richmond’s Robin Center. Officers will pass the torch to a Special Olympics athlete who will light the Olympic Cauldron to open this year’s summer games.

For more information on the Virginia Special Olympics, visit