Cop on a Rooftop is May 19, Torch Run is June 6
LANSING, Ill. (May 16, 2023) – Illinois holds a special distinction when it comes to Special Olympics, as the first games were held on July 20, 1968, at Soldier Field in Chicago.
Now Special Olympics athletes from around the state are set to continue that tradition as they gear up for the annual Summer Games to be held in Bloomington-Normal from June 9-11.
According to its website, the goal of Special Olympics Illinois in part is to provide year-round training and competition in Olympic-style sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities to help them develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, and experience joy.
Bocce, gymnastics, soccer, powerlifting, and swimming are among the sports for which about 4,000 athletes are expected to compete with the assistance of roughly 1,750 coaches and 2,500 volunteers at this year’s Special Olympics Illinois Summer Games.
Law enforcement support
In anticipation of the games, law enforcement is continuing its long association with Special Olympics, and the Lansing Police Department is no exception.
Sgt. Dana Tatgenhorst, a 20-year veteran of the Lansing force, is organizing the department’s efforts in two upcoming Special Olympics fundraisers — Cop on a Rooftop and the Law Enforcement Torch Run.
Cop on a Rooftop will be held on May 19, and is a nation-wide event during which officers inhabit Dunkin’ Donuts shops to seek donations for Special Olympics.
“There’s over 300 departments in Illinois alone that are participating,” Tatgenhorst said.
This year, Lansing police will be at the Dunkin’ Donuts location at 17050 Torrence Avenue from 7 a.m. to noon, taking donations and selling t-shirts, hats, and coffee mugs to benefit the cause.
The event had in other years been held at a larger Dunkin’ Donuts at 17733 Torrence Avenue, but Tatgenhorst said a remodeling project planned there required the move to the new location.
“We’re going to be at the smaller location, but we still plan on having a bunch of fun,” Tatgenhorst said.
He said officers will be inside the store and that one deputy chief loves to run the drive-thru.
“Our Supervisor of Communications (Brian Weis) always comes with his one-liners and fun facts, so we put him up on the roof with a megaphone,” Tatgenhorst said.
Tatgenhorst said over $5,000 was raised as a result of last year’s Cop on a Rooftop event in Lansing.
Jan Persenaire, of Lansing, has been working with the Lansing Knights of Columbus Swim team that is made up of Special Olympics athletes to have some of its participants take part in the Cop on a Rooftop fundraiser.
Her son, Ryan Persenaire, is a long-time Special Olympics athlete and is scheduled to help out at the May 19 event.
“[Special Olympics] helps the kids mentally, physically, emotionally to get involved in this,” Jan Persenaire said.
She said Special Olympics helps both kids and adults with disabilities.
“It doesn’t have to be one disability,” Jan said. “It can be from autism to Down Syndrome to different mentalities.”
Another large fundraiser for Special Olympics is the Law Enforcement Torch Run that leads up to the Summer Games.
Tatgenhorst said the run is to take place in the area on June 6 and 7. He said the exact time the torch will go through the village has not yet been finalized, but Lansing usually has one of the first legs of the run.
“So we’ll be doing the Torch Run June 6 and it’s usually in the early morning,” Tatgenhorst said.
Yet-to-be-determined members of the Lansing Knights of Columbus Swim Team are expected to accompany Lansing police on the run as they pass the torch on to Calumet City as it makes its way ultimately to southern Illinois.
Tatgenhorst said the Lansing portion of the run begins at 193rd Street and Burnham Avenue near the Lansing Airport and proceeds north on Burnham until the hand-off is made to Calumet City at the Little Calumet River.
Below is a video of a portion of the Torch Run that took place in 2018:
The Lansing leg usually starts around 8 a.m.
“We make a lot of noise to wake up everybody like, ‘hey, come out and support Special Olympics,'” Tatgenhorst said.
T-shirts will also be sold in conjunction with the Torch Run and can be purchased at the police station.
Steve Robinette is a long-time member of the Lansing Knights of Columbus and serves as head coach of its swim team that is comprised of members with special needs.
He explained how swimmers who win gold at the time trials held at Stagg High School in Palos Hills qualify to go downstate for the Summer Games.
He said the Torch Run is a way to provide recognition for the swimmers.
“It gives them a motive to try more and it makes them happy and gives them something to strive for,” Robinette said.
He said working with Special Olympics athletes can provide parents with a much needed break.
“You’re helping somebody out who doesn’t have what you and I have,” Robinette said. “And it’s just, it’s a way of giving it back.”
Tatgenhorst said working with Special Olympics provides another way for law enforcement to serve while also helping to build relations between the police and the community.
He said Illinois police raised a total of $7.6 million last year for Special Olympics Illinois.
- Carrying the Special Olympics torch through Lansing (June 12, 2018)