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0First-leg participcants splash their way along northbound US 113 north of Georgetown Thursday morning during the Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics. The opening leg included law enforcement officers from state police and local Georgetown and Millsboro. Delaware State News/Glenn Rolfe

GEORGETOWN — Raindrops kept falling on their heads.

But it didn’t keep them from running.

Persistent heavy rain reigned supreme Thursday morning during the start of the central link of three Sussex County legs in the 33rd annual Statewide Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics.

“If it ain’t raining, we ain’t training,” Millsboro Police Department Sgt. Barry Wheatley chuckled as he and other law enforcement comrades gathered on The Circle prior to the 7:30 a.m. start Thursday.

Officers from Georgetown and Millsboro police departments and Delaware State Police were among the runners who hoofed from the heart of Georgetown onto U.S. 113 for a soggy foot journey north to Milford.

There, runners from central and eastern legs united and headed west to Harrington where forces joined up with the western link that began in Delmar Thursday morning.

For Georgetown Police Capt. Ralph Holm, it was his 20th year as Torch Run participant.

“It gets tougher every year,” he said with a chuckle.

The Torch Run, which began Wednesday night with a gala sendoff in downtown Rehoboth Beach, will culminate Friday when the closing leg enters the University of Delaware Bob Carpenter Center for the official opening of the 2019 Special Olympics Summer Games. At that time, the Special Olympics Flame of Hope will be delivered.

Combined, runners will cover more than 160 miles in the three-day event.

“I think we have over 500 law enforcement officers running this year up and down the state,” said Delaware State Police Sgt. Jason Stevenson of Troop 4. “It is to raise money and awareness for Special Olympics Delaware for persons with intellectual disabilities.”

Georgetown Police Department’s participants in the 2019 Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics: from left, Capt. Ralph Holm, Pfc. Mike Goins, Det. Joey Melvin, Lt. Tom Tyndall, Pfc. Washington Alava and Pfc. Katie Couchman, flanked at far right by Georgetown Chief R.L. Hughes. Delaware State News/Glenn Rolfe

In its history, Delaware law enforcement has raised nearly $8 million in support of Special Olympics Delaware and its year-round program of quality sports training and athletic competition for children and adults with intellectual disabilities and/or cognitive delays.

A network of over 4,000 volunteers makes this program possible for the more than 4,200 athletes who compete in Special Olympics Delaware programs. SODE builds sports skills, confidence, strength, motivation, and self-esteem … not just for the athletes, but for everyone involved, said state police spokesman Sgt. Richard Bratz.

“There are over 4,000 athletes that benefit, and we know that there are more out there who do not participate that we haven’t been able to reach yet,” said Sgt. Stevenson. “Delaware is one of the few states in the country that through Special Olympics athletes are able to participate at no cost to their families, due to the funds that we raise through fundraisers like this.”

To officially participate, a law enforcement runner had a raise a minimum $35. Millsboro’s officers were among those that above and beyond the entry minimum.

“We raised $5,000. We had a lot of corporate sponsorship support,” said Sgt. Wheatley, who has competed about eight years as an active runner and now in his third year as an event coordinator.

“Some guys just pay that out of their pocket and run. Other people do online fundraising through Facebook and social media,” said Sgt. Stevenson. “Other individuals use local businesses to sponsor them as runners. So, there is a variety of ways that people raise money for it.”

For information about the Law Enforcement Torch Run visit: http://www.sode.org/fundraisers/law-enforcement-torch-run.