May 31, 2011
The Wichita River Festival, which starts later this week, coincides with another event that started right here in Wichita. The annual Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics has joined the River Festival this year.
It's the River Festival's 40th year and the Torch Run's 30th anniversary. So what better idea than to combine the two in Downtown Wichita?
"We hope that maybe with this exposure, it's just going to get that many more people to see what Kansas Special Olympics is all about," said Torch Run Council Member David Nienstedt.
The Law Enforcement Torch Run is a major fund raiser for the Special Olympics organization. When it got its start in 1981, just a handful of runners took part. Today, more than 900 law enforcement officers participate in the Torch Run across the state.
"From what started right here in Wichita with six runners back in 1981 with Chief Lamunyon, it's grown globally," Nienstedt said. "There are over 85,000 officers that participate in over 35 nations."
Since the River Festival moved to June, the Torch Run's founder, former Wichita Police Chief Richard Lamunyon, partnered with Wichita Festivals, Inc. to include the Wichita Torch Run in the Sundown Parade to kick off the weeklong festival.
"When we initially made the announcement that we were going to change the date of the festival, Chief Lamunyon called and said 'Can we talk about this?' Because it worked into their Special Olympics time frame," said Janet Wright, President and CEO of Wichita Festivals, Inc.
"With that exposure, we're hoping to raise a little bit more money and awareness," Nienstedt said. "It's nice to raise a little bit of awareness for people with intellectual and physical disabilities."
because of both of these events, you'll start to see street closures around Downtown Wichita starting Friday night around 5:00 PM. After the parade, the runners will continue on to Cessna Stadium where the Special Olympics will be held all weekend.