State Special Olympics torch passes through Tucumcari

By Thomas Garcia: QCS staff writer

Members of New Mexico law enforcement escorted local special Olympics athletes Wednesday as they carried the Flame of Hope along Route 66 through Tucumcari.

“This is a way to get the local law enforcement agencies involved and show support for the games,” said Paul Bell of the New Mexico State Police.

This 1,600-mile, statewide-run began Monday in Hobbs, said John Beaird, Lea County Correctional Facility, associate warden.

Beaird and several law enforcement personnel carried the torch via bicycle from Nara Visa to Tucumcari.

“People ask me why I do this,” Beaird said. “I tell them it is to get the public involved and raise their awareness. For in Matthew 25 it says, ‘And the King will answer them, truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ “

Beaird said the group of cyclists will move on to Santa Rosa and rest for the night.

Then, the Flame of Hope will be transferred to a new group and be taken to Summer games in Albuquerque.

“This is so wonderful, events like this help raise the funds for out local athletes to compete in the summer and winter games,” said Geraldine Downing, Quay County Special Olympics coordinator.

The Law Enforcement Torch Run began 19 years ago in Wichita, Kan., according to the New Mexico Special Olympics Web Site.

The Torch Run raised more than $34 million for Special Olympics programs around the world in 2008.

More then 85,000 officers helped carry the Flame of Hope across 35 nations.