“Torch of Hope” passes through Stillwater County

Marlo Pronovost
Thursday, May 9, 2019
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Photo by Crystal Arnold

Stillwater County Sheriff Chief Deputy Skylar Steele and Undersheriff Randy Smith pass the torch on Highway 10, east of Columbus, last Friday.

Article Image Alt Text

Photo by Crystal Arnold

Stillwater County Sheriff Chip Kem and his wife,Lisa, carry the torch down Pike Avenue for their leg of the event.

Each May, law enforcement agencies around the state step up physically and financially to do their part for the Special Olympics.

This year, officers will carry the “Flame of Hope” some 2,200 miles to the opening ceremonies in Great Falls on May 15. Officers collect donation money locally, which is given to Special Olympics. When the torch passed through Stillwater County last Friday, Sheriff Chip Kem, Undersheriff Randy Smith and Chief Deputy Skylar Steele each carried  the torch along Highway 10 — Smith and Steele on bicycles from the Special K Ranch east of Columbus, and Kem and his wife, Lisa, on a motorcycle.

Law enforcement’s involvement with Special Olympics is explained by LETR’s mission statement:

 “The mission of the Law Enforcement Torch Run® (LETR) for Special Olympics is to raise funds and awareness of the Special Olympics Movement worldwide. Special Olympics is a program that daily reaffirms our beliefs that with hope, love and dedication we can see achievement and self-worth realized by any individual. It is our belief that persons with intellectual disabilities, by their involvement in Special Olympics, show the community at large the true meaning of sports and a pure joy  towards life.” LETR began in 1981 in Kansas City by a police chief who believed it would be a good way to help law enforcement be active in the community on a different level. Officers are known as “Guardians of the Flame.”


When the Special Olympics of Montana (SOMT) was launched in 1979, there were approximately 400 athletes who attended. This year, that number is more than 2,000 athletes, representing 65 communities. Athletes range in age from 8 to 86. There is no charge to participate, which means SOMT is fueled by its own non-profit organization and relies on donations from individuals and businesses around the state. More than 4,000 people statewide give their time and talent in volunteer roles, according to the SOMT website.