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UWRF hosts Run with the Cops to raise money for Special Olympics

October 19, 2016

In an effort to promote a sense of community and awareness, UW-River Falls partnered with Special Olympics Wisconsin and the River Falls Police Department to host a Run with the Cops event Tuesday, Oct. 11.

The event featured a series of challenges that the public could take part in, like a 5K glow run/walk, a doughnut eating contest and even a kid versus cop obstacle course in which officers had to match their speed, agility and ability to pass a sobriety test against energetic children. James Walker, a patrol officer from the River Falls Police Department, said that he was unable to beat his competitor but nevertheless believed the event to be worth doing again in the future.

“It’s definitely good for the community,” Walker said. “I think we had a good turnout from what I can see here. It gives the community something to look at law enforcement a little differently than just cops.”

Police departments from all over Wisconsin turned out for the event. Law enforcement vehicles from Hudson, Baldwin, Ellsworth and Eau Claire were parked along where registration and the obstacle race took place. They were later sent out to light the way during the 5K race. Competitors had the option of walking or running and were provided with a variety of glow sticks for the event. The race started off with a recitation of the Athlete’s Oath by Special Olympics athletes and later finished with those same athletes giving high-fives to the competitors who had run to support their cause.

“[The] main goal is the fundraising for our Special Olympics program, so our athletes can keep competing,” said Karen Kraus, regional director of development for Special Olympics Wisconsin. “The underlying goal here is really just about community service and having people meet Special Olympics athletes, interact with law enforcement, have them see that law enforcement are human beings as well.”

The idea for the Run with the Cops originated with the police department at UW-Stout, Kraus said. Law enforcement has long had a history of working with the Special Olympics programs, and the intention behind the event was to strengthen community ties with local police departments and also bring awareness and funding to the Special Olympics cause. From there, Kraus said, the idea “spread like wildfire across the state,” and there is now a total of seven such runs in various locations across Wisconsin.

According to the Special Olympics Wisconsin Annual Report, the organization pulled in nearly $7 million in public support and revenue money in 2015, about $4 million of which came from fundraising and registration fees. This money was used for expenses such as public education, games and competitions and outreach efforts, and about 10,000 athletes participated in various programs that same year.

“Special Olympics is doing a lot for athletes with intellectual disabilities,” said Kraus. “Not only is it giving them an opportunity to play sports, but it’s teaching them things like teamwork, it’s teaching them how to be a part of the community…it’s helping them interact with people who don’t have disabilities. It’s really just giving them so much more than a sports opportunity.”

This is the first Run with the Cops competition that UWRF has hosted, but the event will likely become an annual affair and grow as awareness spreads.