Story by OPEC staff
Photos by Don Chaddock, Inside CDCR editor

On a warm Friday morning in Sacramento, the Law Enforcement Torch Run ended on the north steps of the State Capitol. Numerous Special Olympics athletes, law enforcement personnel and CDCR staff were on hand for the brief ceremony.

David Solo, president and CEO for Special Olympics of Northern California, said he’s grateful for the support of all the law enforcement agencies.

“We’re very blessed that Special Olympics is the charity of choice for law enforcement worldwide,” he said, calling the support and donations critical to the organization’s operation. “We don’t charge any fees for our athletes to participate. As a nonprofit, we rely on the generosity of our community. … CDCR is the number one fundraising agency in the Law Enforcement Torch Run.”

Diana Toche, Undersecretary of Health Care Services for CDCR, said she became involved because of a friend’s daughter, who is a Special Olympics athlete.

“Just to see the happiness that Special Olympics brings to folks is inspiring,” she said.

Therese Giannelli, Community Resources Manager with CSP-Sacramento, was named 2016 Volunteer of the Year for Special Olympics of Northern California.

“It’s a huge honor. There are so many deserving people who volunteer countless hours,” she said. “(Inmates) donated over $8,000 per year in addition to what our staff does, which is probably another $6,000 to $8,000 being raised (at CSP-Sacramento).”

Jonathan Sparks, athlete with Special Olympics, sang the National Anthem during the Capitol ceremony.

“I do swimming. Yes, I am excited (for the games),” Sparks said. “(I’m excited) mainly for Special Olympics (since) this is how (it) financially survives. They raise money by the Torch Run, by the Tip-a-Cops, and other fundraisers. At the Summer Games tonight at UC Davis, they have an honor wall, so as the athletes come through, the law enforcement officers give the athletes high fives, which is very cool.”

Sparks has been involved with Special Olympics since the 1970s.

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