In 2013, the Law Enforcement Torch Run (LETR) started a new fundraising program called the Law Enforcement Torch Ride in three locations across Ontario: Niagara Falls, Ottawa and Timmins. Each location featured a fun motorcycle ride to raise money for Special Olympics Ontario (SOO). The following year, the Toronto Police Motor Squad decided to host their own ride and it was an immediate success raising $22,000 and had over 100 riders participate. The Torch Ride continued to grow raising $42,000 in 2015 and $23,500 in 2016 totaling $87,500 raised in three years, by far the most prosperous Torch Ride in the province.
In 2017, the Motor Squad decided to not host a Torch Ride and turn their attention to a new fundraiser; a Harley Davidson Raffle. The Great Lakes Police Motorcycle Training Seminar had previously run the raffle and presented Special Olympics Ontario a cheque in 2016 for $30,000. Toronto Police Motor Squad took over the raffle in 2017 and the results have been nothing short of incredible, annually selling out 5,000 tickets and raising in excess of $90,000 per draw for Special Olympics.
Speaking on behalf of the Motor Squad, Sgt. Jeff Redden explained the natural partnership with the Toronto Police and the raffle “Motor officers are accustomed and enjoy interacting with the public at motorcycle competitions so its an easy transition to engage the public at various shows to sell tickets. Motor officers take pride in continuing the long tradition of law enforcement supporting Special Olympics and embracing that it now involves our love of motorcycles.”
Toronto Police is annually one of the highest grossing police agencies in the province for Torch Run fundraising and the Harley Raffle is a main contributor. Sgt Redden emphasized this point “there is great value in holding the motorcycle raffle as the Service adds yet another fundraising avenue to our charity of choice (Special Olympics). In addition, we attend many events, trade shows and functions which gives us the ability to promote Special Olympics to a new demographic of supporters.”
Torch Run and Special Olympics Ontario are blessed to have such dedicated officers who volunteer their time above and beyond the call of duty. To that effect, when asked what Special Olympics means to him, Sgt Redden replied “no matter how big or small your town or city, Special Olympics Ontario is there to support the athletes financially which is vital to running the programs. I have seen first hand the light that shines brightly in these athlete’s eyes as they explain how they have trained, competed and succeeded in their sports as they show off their medals that are proudly worn around their necks.”
The Motor Squad sells the majority of the tickets for the raffle at trade shows and events, all of which have been cancelled due to COVID-19 resulting in tens-of-thousands lost in sales. The focus has now been shifted to selling tickets online (www.harleyraffle.ca) for the draw on September 16, 2020. Only 7,000 tickets will be sold and one lucky winner will drive away in a 2020 Harley Davidson Street Glide!
Despite this setback the Motor Squad is determined to sell-out the draw as in years past and are driven by their passion and commitment to Special Olympics. Sgt Redden concluded: “In addition to the funds raised, the great feeling of accomplishment is when at the shows without failure, we have Special Olympic athletes approach us and energetically tell the stories of success in their sport. Its clear how important Special Olympics is in their day-to-day lives and the love and appreciation they have for the Police is palpable. We are one small piece of the Special Olympics family and we could not be prouder.”
Thank you Toronto Police Motor Squad for your efforts in the Torch Ride, and now Harley Raffle, raising hundreds-of-thousands of dollars to ensure 26,000 athletes in Ontario living with an intellectual disability can participate in sport. We couldn’t do it without you.