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Special Olympics Torch Run

Basking in the Wednesday morning sun, participants helped kick off the local leg of the Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics of Western New York.

Named after Stephen Fardink, who passed away in April 2017, the local leg began outside the Jamestown Municipal Building before making its way past Jamestown High School and then toward Northwest Arena, the National Comedy Center and back to city hall.

Leading the way at the beginning were Justin Latimer, a multi-sport participant in Special Olympics New York, and Capt. Robert Samuelson of the Jamestown Police Department. The two have carried the Flame of Hope in past torch runs.

According to Special Olympics New York, the Law Enforcement Torch Run brings together nearly 6,000 police and peace officers from about 500 agencies in a 56-leg relay that carries the Flame of Hope across the state each year. These “Guardians of the Flame” team up with Special Olympics athletes to symbolize courage and celebrate diversity, the organization states on its website.

The Torch Run is Special Olympics’ largest fundraiser and public awareness event; it generates more than $2 million each year in contributions in New York alone, providing training, equipment, venues, uniforms and transportation for athletes.

The local portion of the Torch Run — which on Wednesday brought various law enforcement officers, Special Olympics athletes and members of the community together — has been named in memory of Fardink. The 1987 Panama Central School graduate began his law enforcement career in 1990 with the Chautauqua County Sheriff’s Office as a seasonal navigation officer before becoming an officer with the Lakewood-Busti Police Department. He became a sergeant in 2008 and retired in 2013.

Fardink was also a member of the SWAT team during his career, ending with the Chautauqua County court system. He died April 11, 2017.

“We just really appreciate them remembering Steve,” said Fardink’s wife, Pam, of those who turned out to support the run. “Steve loved the whole Special Olympics and everybody that is associated with it and just everything they do for those individuals that participate.”

Pam Fardink also acknowledged the local police officers who take part in the local Torch Run, many of whom her husband knew through work.

“These guys,” she said, “he worked pretty much with all of them; he was a member of the SWAT team, he was a sergeant in Lakewood, he worked for courts in the Sheriff’s Office. He pretty much worked with all of them.”

She added, “We’re overwhelmed that they still remember him. It’s been four years since he passed away. It’s just really nice that the community can do all this. The Special Olympics organization is just a wonderful organization.”

Shortly before the run, T-shirts were sold to benefit Special Olympics of Western New York.

“We had an excellent turnout once again for our annual Torch Run to benefit Special Olympics,” Samuelson said afterward. “We are proud to be part of such an excellent cause that benefits our local athletes here in Western New York.”

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