In late February 2020, over 2500 people converged on Thunder Bay to participate in the National Winter Olympic Games being hosted in the city. These numbers included 11 members of the Law Enforcement Torch Run Final Leg team which was comprised of Officers coming from as far away as Victoria, BC, Whitehorse, Yukon and St. John, Newfoundland. Ontario’s own Aaron GROSS, a Sergeant with the Niagara Falls Police, was selected to join the team and made the trip to Thunder Bay. The team was also joined by not one, but two, Special Olympic athletes, Shawn and Robert WHITEHURST. The long time Special Olympic athletes are twin brothers from Thunder Bay and were both awesome additions to the team. Team members struggled to tell the brothers apart, often resorting to checking out their different shoes because they are identical twins dressed in matching run uniforms.
The Final Leg started with a team dinner in Thunder Bay and then hit the ground running the next morning at the Terry Fox Monument. The team had a chance to play Bocce with the Special Olympic athletes in Kenora, before meeting the community in an assembly at the local high school the next morning. The community of Dryden welcomed the team with an awesome turnout of Officers to join the run there, followed by a fun round of Unified Bocce with the community at Dryden High School. If you somehow missed the Flame of Hope being carried through the downtown by a parade of chanting runners, Police vehicles with their lights and sirens, or the community members gathered to cheer the team on, then the fire alarm inside Dryden High School finished the job, let everyone know that LETR was there. Dryden is apparently, very serious about their fire prevention.
The run team visited some of Thunder Bay’s most well-known attractions, participating in runs at the Terry Fox Monument, Kakabeka Falls, Hillcrest Park with its stunning views of the Thunder Bay and the Sleeping Giant and Fort William First Nation. The team visited one of Thunder Bay’s famous eateries, The Hoito, where they were put to work in the kitchen learning how to make their famous Finnish Pancakes. The team had a chance to bowl with most of Thunder Bay’s Special Needs students at local bowling alley. The Torch Walk on Fort William First Nation was incredibly moving as local Special Olympic Athletes and members of the Fort William First Nation joined the Walk and team members were welcomed to the Community by the Chief, members of the Band Counsel, and a group of Hand Drummers who shared songs with everyone gathered.
The Final Leg Run into the Opening Ceremonies was one of the shortest ones on record. The energy was high and there was no shortage of smiles everywhere as the Flame of Hope was proudly carried up to the stage to light the Cauldron, kicking off what turned out to be an amazing Winter Games. Many Thanks to everyone who helped make this event such a success!