KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — A Knoxville Police officer will be the only representative from Tennessee in the Final Leg Team of the Law Enforcement Torch Run for the Special Olympics World Games.

Officer Dean Ray serves as a School Resource officer and has been with the Knoxville Police Department for over 25 years. Of those 25 years, Ray also spent much of his time with the Patrol Division, where he was a K-9 handler for 10 years. Ray will be one of 125 law enforcement officers worldwide to be a part of the Final Leg Team.

Ray has a special tie to the Special Olympics. He became involved with the games eight years ago when his daughter, Madison, became an Athlete. Since then, Ray has participated in the Law Enforcement Torch Run for the past five years.

“I’m in shock, it’s a great honor to be selected for the World Games Torch Run Final Leg and I’m looking forward to this great opportunity,” said Ray. “To promote inclusion and provide a chance for these athletes to compete in real sports as part of an actual team…I can’t put a price on the smile on an athlete’s face during Special Olympic events, especially seeing my daughter participate like everyone else.”

The efforts that Dean puts forward for the games and what they stand for do not go unnoticed. Jennifer McAfee, Law Enforcement Torch Run Director for the Special Olympics Tennessee commented on this.

“Dean’s commitment to our Law Enforcement Torch Run program, and Special Olympics in general, made him an easy choice to represent Tennessee in the Final Leg Torch Run,” said McAfee “I am excited for Dean as he gets to be a part of such an amazing event.” 

The Law Enforcement Torch Run Final Leg represents the culmination of all the other Torch Run events that have occurred worldwide leading up to the World Games. The team is comprised of both law enforcement officers and Special Olympics athletes. The torch run is tentatively scheduled for June 2 through 17 of 2023, and will lead up to the World Summer Games held in Berlin, Germany. The team, serving as guardians of the flame will carry the Flame of Hope into the Opening Ceremony of the World Games.

“The Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics is the largest public awareness vehicle
and grass-roots fundraiser for Special Olympics.” Special Olympics Tennessee explained in a release. “The LETR for Special Olympics engages law enforcement worldwide championing acceptance and inclusion for people with intellectual disabilities, starting first with their own communities.”

Since the Law Enforcement Torch Run began, it has raised over $940 million for Special Olympics.

During the World Games in 2023, 7,000 Special Olympics athletes and Unified partners will represent approximately 170 countries in 24 sports according to the Special Olympics Website.