Photo by Dermot Connolly
Chicago Ridge Trustee Sally Durkin (from left), Donna Betsanes and Debbie Badon, led the group of walkers coming from Chicago Ridge to Palos Heights on June 8 in support of the Special Olympics Torch Run.
The Chicago Ridge and Palos Heights police departments sponsored legs of the annual Special Olympics Torch Run across Illinois on June 8, and crowds came out to support them in both communities despite the early hour.
For the past three years, the Chicago Ridge Police Department dedicated its torch run to the memory of Illinois State Trooper James Sauter, who grew up in Chicago Ridge. He was killed on duty March 28, 2013 when a truck driver fell asleep and collided with his vehicle on Interstate 294 near Northbrook.
The event, organized with the help of Trustees Bruce Quintos and Sally Durkin, began at 7 a.m. with an opening ceremony in front of the police department at 10425 S. Ridgeland Ave. to honor Sauter. Deb Pyznarski, wife of Chicago Ridge Police Chief Robert Pyznarski, was also involved in the planning.
After members of Boy Scout Troop 668 participated in the ceremonial lowering and replacing of the U.S. flag in front of the building, they folded the flag they took down and presented it to Sauter’s parents, Donald and Eileen. Village officials also gave them a plaque and framed proclamation.
Rebecca Von Bruchhaeuser then led the crowd in singing ”The Star-Spangled Banner,” while Hannah Bartlett interpreted the national anthem in American Sign Language.
“It is really gratifying to see so many people here so early for such a great organization,” said Mayor Chuck Tokar.
Quintos, a retired police officer himself, has been involved in the Torch Run since 1993.
He said a lot of money has been raised for Special Olympics over the years in Chicago Ridge. “I think we’ve already raised about $3,000 in donations for this event this year,” he said on Tuesday.
The assembled crowd lined Ridgeland Avenue and cheered as the runners took off with the torch and a state and county police escort, followed by a group of walkers that included Durkin and other village officials. They made their way south to 111th Street and then west to Harlem Avenue, where they ran south, over the Cal-Sag Bridge to the Tiffany Square shopping plaza at Route 83 in Palos Heights.
There they met up with Palos Heights Police Chief Larry Yott, and the runners who would carry the torch the 12 miles to Mokena, in Will County.
“It is great to see all our officers get so involved in this. We’ve raised as much as $10,000 some years,” said Yott.
Chicago Ridge Police Officer Dave Jenen handed the torch over to Palos Heights Officer Tony Delaney, a rookie who was given the honor of carrying the torch to Mokena.
“I expect to be able to carry it all the way,” he said. “But it will be hard. I worked the overnight shift,” he said.
He got some encouragement from Joe Kirkwood, of Palos Heights, who was making his fourth torch run.
“It keeps me in shape. I hope to join the Palos Heights Police Department soon,” said Kirkwood.
Jordan McBride, a Bridgeview resident who is working on getting her master’s degree in special education from Dominican University, also was running from Palos Heights to Mokena for the first time.
“I should be able to do it. I’ve run 13 miles before,” she said. “It helps when you think that it is all for a good cause.
The ultimate destination was the campus of Illinois State University in Bloomington-Normal, where the Illinois Special Olympics were held Friday through Sunday.