News: Henderson Hall lends legs to Special Olympics torch run
By Michael Norris
Pentagram Assistant Editor
ARLINGTON, Va. - The last leg of the Virginia Law Enforcement Torch Relay Run took off from the Iwo Jima Memorial in Arlington, Va., June 6 on its way to Richmond, Va., for the opening ceremonies of the Special Olympics Virginia Summer Games the following day at the University of Richmond.
More than 200 law enforcement agencies from across the commonwealth participated in the eight-day, 1,900 mile relay run, calling attention to Virginia Special Olympics athletic competitions and year-long training held for athletes with intellectual disabilities.
This is the 28th year of the Virginia Law Enforcement Torch Run. Since last year, participating police officers across the state have raised more than $1 million for Special Olympics Virginia.
Marines and civilians from Headquarters & Service Battalion, Headquarters Marine Corps, Henderson Hall participated in the run, with Commanding Officer Col. Ira M. Cheatham and Battalion Sgt. Maj. Craig D. Cressman leading 30 volunteers from the memorial site to Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall and back. Other runners continued down through Alexandria, Marine Base Quantico and then on to Richmond, passing the torch to different groups of runners along the way.
1st Sgt. James T. Russo from Marine Barracks Washington ran with his wife Jennifer Russo of Henderson Hall’s Marine Corps Family Team Building. The couple has a 5-year-old daughter with autism.
The first sergeant said the couple participated to “raise awareness” for the athletic competition. “I hope one day our daughter can do the Special Olympics,” he said.
“It’s a great opportunity to get out there and represent the Marine Corps,” said runner Capt. James Palis, H & S Bn. Company executive officer. “It lets people know that we do more than just fight wars. We’re out there helping the community.”
Officers from police departments in Arlington, Alexandria, Fairfax, Loudoun, Prince William and Fauquier counties participated in the run, with Tim Fields of the Fairfax County Police Department singing the national anthem at the kick-off.
Cheatham took part in the opening ceremonies, holding the “Flame of Hope” aloft with Special Olympics athlete Rose Pleskow when the torch was lit by Ellen Head, director of development for the Special Olympics of Northern Virginia.
Before leading Marines in a run with the torch, Cheatham told the gathering how he worked helping the Special Olympics back when he was a Boy Scout.
“You should all feel good about yourselves,” he told the assembled runners. “We’re fortunate to be able to give something back.”
“It’s for a good cause,” Cressman said after Henderson Hall runners looped back to the memorial. “We teamed up with the police departments — crowd fighters and war fighters together — to do something good for the community. We felt obliged since the event started at our memorial.”