San Francisco police hold annual Special Olympics torch run

SAN FRANCISCO (KTVU) -- San Francisco police officers are in the business of helping people, but on Monday dozens of them took to the streets to help support the Special Olympics. 

The San Francisco Police Department Torch Run is an annual tradition that this year raised $15,000 for Special Olympics athletes. On a chilly morning, dozens of aspiring police officers filed into Union Square for special duty. 

"I enjoy helping out Special Olympics," said Caitlin Lowe, member of SFPD Academy Class #246.

The members of two police academy classes volunteered for the department's Torch Run for Special Olympics. 

"It's just a great honor to be a part of this recruit class and in the SFPD Academy, and to be helping out with a cause like this, it makes us all feel really good," said Nicolas Nagai, also from Academy Class #246.

Briana Oakley of 'American Idol' fame opened the day with the national anthem, and then it was time to start the run. Normally, you're not going to walk or run in the streets of San Francisco, but on this day, a big escort from the San Francisco Police Department made it safe.

After working with Special Olympics for the past 20 years, KTVU's John Sasaki was lucky enough to be invited to lead the first leg. 

"We're all in with Special Olympics," said Police Chief Greg Suhr.

First, the group headed west on Geary, then south on Jones and through the Tenderloin. 

"By the end of the run, we actually have people join the run. It's just a great feel good San Francisco thing," added Chief Suhr.

A good San Francisco thing that helps an important cause: allowing the athletes of Special Olympics to compete for free year-round. 

"I've won 42 gold medals in the past years," said athlete Walter Paulson of San Francisco. He and two other athletes ran with the police. 

"It's an honor, and we like the benefit. It's helping the Special Olympics, bring attention to their cause," said Paulson.

Running alongside those inspirational athletes, the police weaved their way through ten miles of San Francisco streets, past AT&T Park, down the Embarcadero, through North Beach and back to Union Square. 

"They were keeping up just as good as we can, so big props to them," said recruit Nagai.

Some of the recruits didn't run the whole time, but then they have lots more police training ahead. 

"It's very taxing, so I just want to make sure I preserve my energy for the rest of the week. Got a long week ahead of us," explained recruit Lowe.

The torch will make its way across Northern California this week, ending at U.C. Davis on Friday for the Special Olympics Summer Games this weekend.

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