embers of the Mt. Lebanon Police Department traded in their uniforms for running gear Monday morning to serve as Guardians of the Flame in the Special Olympics Law Enforcement Torch Run. The 15 members of the Mt. Lebanon team—along with officers from Castle Shannon, Whitehall, Green Tree and Bethel Park—escorted the torch that marks the start of the Special Olympics of Western Pennsylvania Summer Games on a 2.9-mile stretch through Pittsburgh.
Over the next two days, 430 runners representing 35 agencies will carry the flame—which started its journey at the Law Enforcement Memorial on the North Side—on its 150-mile journey to State College.
“It’s an awesome opportunity to support the athletes of Special Olympics,” Mt. Lebanon Police Chief Aaron Lauth said.
For him, supporting Special Olympics programs and events is personal. His brother, Martin, is a Special Olympics athlete.
“It’s something that’s always been near and dear to my heart. I know his friends and his fellow athletes. This is an opportunity to support them and show them our support,” said Lauth, whose daughter, Penny, 9, joined him on the run. Martin also participated, even carrying the torch for a stretch.
Mt. Lebanon police have participated in the Law Enforcement Torch Run for more than 10 years.
“It’s really great to see how many cops come out to show their support,” said Jason Haberman, deputy chief of support services. “It’s so nice to be able to give back. When you see these athletes participate in the events … it’s really priceless to be able to support them.”
In addition to the torch run, police officers from across the region also show support to the athletes by attending their events and handing out medals at their games.
“It’s great, just seeing the smiles on their faces and getting to be a part of that,” Lauth said.