Thursday’s unseasonably warm temperatures weren’t enough to keep more than 40 people from various law enforcement agencies from trekking 26 miles with the Special Olympics torch.


Runners from the Aiken Department of Public Safety, the Aiken County Sheriff’s Office, the S.C. Department of Natural Resources, WSI-SRS and the Second Circuit Solicitor’s Office hit the sizzling pavement for the annual Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics.


The group ran together from the TD Bank on Chesterfield Street through downtown to the Sheriff’s Office on Hampton Avenue. From there, they carried the torch down U.S. 1 to the Batesburg-Leesville Police Department to pass off to the Lexington County Sheriff’s Office. The torch then made its way to Columbia, where the Special Olympics summer games will be hosted this weekend at Fort Jackson.


Aiken Public Safety has been participating in the run since 1997, and the Sheriff’s Office has made a run at it every year since 1995.


Sgt. Jason Feemster said there are more than 20,000 Special Olympics athletes in South Carolina.


“Our goal is to raise awareness and funds for these athletes,” he said. “It’s a great thing for us to be doing for noble athletes.”


Bill Boyce, of New Ellenton, was at the run on Thursday with his son Paul, who has swam in the Special Olympics for 20 years.


“When Paul was born, they had a very small Special Olympics program,” he said, adding that the recent spring games at Midland Valley High School boasted more than 900 athletes competing.


“It gives them an opportunity to compete with people with similar disabilities,” Boyce said. “It’s part of Paul’s life. It’s ingrained in him, primarily because he participates. He looks forward to the activities, he looks forward to the trips. He’s looking forward to leaving (Friday) on the bus and going to the fort and eating Army food.”


The annual run began in Wichita, Kansas, in 1981 when a local police chief saw what he felt was the need to raise public awareness and funds for the Special Olympics. It raised $46 million globally last year.


Local law enforcement agencies have another fundraiser for the Special Olympics planned for May 17. “Cover a Cruiser” will take place at Target on Whiskey Road from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Stickers will be available for purchase or donation to cover a police cruiser at the store.


Teddy Kulmala covers the crime and courts beat for the Aiken Standard and has been with the newspaper since August 2012.