Special Olympics Torch Run continues traditioin

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By Alice Du Pont

         The first time Robert Jackson participated the Special Olympics was 1972.

         "I was in seventh grade at Quincy Junior High and Mr. Jimmy Davis was the teacher over Special Olympics at the time. He got me started," Jackson said.

         He participates in the 400-meter walk and the 100-meter walk for the summer games and basketball skills for the winter games. Throughout the 40 years of participating, Jackson has won hundreds of ribbons and trophies. He has participated in the Florida State Special Olympic games "lots" of times he said.

         "When I first started we used to go to Tampa. Then we started going to Orlando." he said.

         It was because of Special Olympics that he took his first overnight trip away from home.

         "We stayed in a hotel. It was very nice and I liked it," Jackson said.

         His father, L.C. Jackson, has passed but Robert said he will always remember how proud he made his father when he was invited to the International Games at Notre Dame University.

         "It was my first airplane flight. I was real excited and my dad was excited because I was going to the International Games. I meet a lot of people at the state meets. Sometimes I don't see them for a few years and I forget them but when I see them again, I remember them," he said.

         Monday morning Jackson, wearing a royal blue "Florida Special Olympics T-shirt and jeans, joined over 300 representatives from various law enforcement agencies throughout the county, school district support personnel and children with special needs, for the annual Special Olympics Torch Run. The 2012 run was hosted by Gadsden Correctional Facility with Warden Sergio Molina carrying the torch the first leg of the run.

         Representatives from the Gadsden County Sheriff's Office,Quincy Police Department, Florida Institute of Public Safety and GCF spread out along the route for more than a mile.

         "I was told that this is one of the largest runs we've ever had in Gadsden County. This is such a worthwhile cause and law enforcement really do so much to make this possible. They don't always get the recognition that due them but they really give back to the community. These kids are so special and it makes all of us feel good about helping them," said Richard Crutcher, who coordinated the event.

         Children, teachers and aides met with law enforcement and other volunteers in the Piggly Wiggly parking lot for a water/juice break before continuing to the Joe Ferolito Recreation Center for lunch.

         At the recreation center the participants were served a lunch of hot dogs and hamburgers with all of the condiments, chips, soft drinks and water. A short program with speeches by Sheriff Morris Young, school district officials, and Quincy city manager Jack McLean welcomed the students and thanked them for another good run.

         This is the 19th year the county has held a Torch Run.