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GPS student athletes with disabilities participate in Law Enforcement Torch Run

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A Mesa police officer runs with a lit torch alongside students outside Desert Ridge High School.Outside Desert Ridge High School in Mesa, a large crowd lined up along Madero Avenue to cheer on student athletes with disabilities. In the spirit of solidarity, the athletes from Desert Ridge High and Desert Ridge Junior High teamed up with Mesa Police to pass the torch. 

“It’s a huge deal,” said Deann Perkins, an administrative assistant at Desert Ridge High School. 

Perkins worked with School Resource Officer Garrett Daniels and Dean of Students Trent Bender to organize the Law Enforcement Torch Run on campus. Donations raised from the walk/run support Special Olympics Arizona and provide more opportunities for Special Olympics athletes. The cause means a lot to Perkins and her family. 

“It’s near and dear to my heart to have a daughter that has been involved in it, but I also think it’s showing the community that they can get involved and be part of these kids’ lives,” she said.

More than two dozen student athletes with disabilities from the Desert Ridge community participated in the Law Enforcement Torch Run. Depending upon their abilities, the student athletes walked or ran alongside Mesa officers. The route went down Madero Avenue through Desert Ridge High’s campus and finished off with a victory lap around the track inside the football stadium. The athletes and officers were cheered on by student groups, the football team, cheerleaders, school staff, families, and community members. Colorful signs with messages of support hung from the chain link fence surrounding the track and a giant balloon arch marked the finish line.

A student athlete with disabilities gives the thumbs up on the track at Desert Ridge High School.
“To participate in something that is uniquely for them is a pretty cool experience,” Perkins said. 

The Law Enforcement Torch Run happens around the world. It’s the largest fundraising event for Special Olympics. In our state, law enforcement agencies collectively raise more than a million dollars every year for Special Olympics Arizona, which goes directly toward increasing the number of opportunities available to athletes with disabilities. The torch used in the run is brought to Special Olympics sporting events across the state to signify the start of the games.

Desert Ridge High students donated some of their own money to the cause. The Student Council went around campus collecting spare change for Special Olympics Arizona. They added up the donations and presented a check on the day of the event to Mesa Police for $626.20. Proceeds from t-shirt sales also went to the organization. 

A large group of student athletes with disabilities poses for a group photo outside Desert Ridge High School in Mesa.
To learn more about Desert Ridge High School and the work students are doing in the community, schedule a school tour or enroll today


Written by Kailey Latham, Photos by Jonason Pauley