A 70-mile parade of heroes supporting Special Olympics

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    THIS YEAR’S Torch Run coordinator, Reserve Deputy Brandi Jones and her husband, Reserve Deputy Dan Jones, joined the parade.

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    SEAN McKAHON takes his turn with the Special Olympics torch through Thompson Falls. (Carolyn Hidy photos/Clark Fork Valley Press

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    TWO RUNNERS from the Mountain Meadow Youth Ranch take part in the LETR for Special Olympics.

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    THIS YEAR’S Torch Run coordinator, Reserve Deputy Brandi Jones and her husband, Reserve Deputy Dan Jones, joined the parade.

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    SEAN McKAHON takes his turn with the Special Olympics torch through Thompson Falls. (Carolyn Hidy photos/Clark Fork Valley Press

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    TWO RUNNERS from the Mountain Meadow Youth Ranch take part in the LETR for Special Olympics.

Heroes come in all shapes and sizes. Some are heroes for what they have done to overcome difficulty. Others for being willing to take on difficulty to help or support someone else. All were on display at the Sanders County 2019 Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics, helping to raise funds, awareness and excitement for the county’s qualifying athletes to compete next week in the Special Olympics State Games in Great Falls.

The annual Torch Run is no small undertaking. Similar to the torch carried throughout the globe for months in preparation for the international Olympics, a stylized Olympic torch is relayed along Montana’s Highway 200 from near the Montana/Idaho border to the 70 mile marker in Plains — all in one long day.

The 2019 event took place on one of the hottest days of the year so far, but participants were not deterred by the heatwaves from the blacktop. A team of runners from Mountain Meadows Youth Ranch, and horse riders out of Trout Creek, gave their all during the first stretch to Thompson Falls, accompanied by the Thompson Falls Ambulance, Montana Highway Patrol, and Sanders County Sheriff’s Office vehicles.

Meanwhile, Thompson Falls Rural Fire Department assembled a free barbecue with all the fixins at their hall west of town, where a second running team — 12 young men from the Building Bridges program — awaited their turn to walk with the crowd through town and then run the torch from the 60- to the 70-mile marker.

Several Special Olympians and their families met the entire entourage as they entered Thompson Falls, with Justin Knudsen taking the first handoff. As he tired, his buddy Sean McMahon took the torch on into town, followed by a merry band of volunteers.

Grand Marshall Lacey Kinzer met the Bridges team at the outskirts of Plains and walked the final mile, supported by family, friends and volunteers from throughout the county, and several visitors who come back for the event whenever they can, including Lacey’s grandma, in from California. Lacey earned three gold medals and one silver in the Regional Special Olympics and is excited for state competition.

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