SOUTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. — Frank Matarese, an officer with the South Kingstown Police Department, was one of four volunteers representing police, firefighters and the attorney general’s office to take part in the Special Olympics Rhode Island 24-hour Super Torch Run.
The group started moving at 11 a.m. Saturday at Roger Williams Park in Providence and didn’t stop for 24 hours, in order to raise money for Special Olympics.
The small but dedicated group walked or ran more than 70 miles, completing 140,000 steps over two days. The team busted through its $10,000 goal, raising more than $12,927 as of Tuesday.
The team’s fundraising page will stay active until the end of this month, so there’s still time to make a donation. The page is at https://www.firstgiving.com/event/soriTR/24-Hour-Run.
Matarese was joined by Eric LeClerc, a detective with the Cranston Police Department, Rhode Island Assistant Attorney General Jim Baum and Jennifer Beltran, of the Providence Fire Department.
The Torch Run is a new effort to create awareness and raise funds for the 4,000 athletes who currently train and compete in year-round in Special Olympics Rhode Island, at no cost to them or their families.
Matarese has supported Special Olympics in Rhode Island for the past six years. He got involved while he worked as a correctional officer at the Wyatt Detention Facility.
“I ran my first Torch Run to the State House and became intrigued by this great cause and the bond it creates among law enforcement, fire and corrections,” he said on his fundraising page. “Every year since, I have become more and more involved with the organization, participating in multiple events around the state. I am a big fan and advocate for everything the Special Olympics does here in Rhode Island.”
Baum has volunteered for the Law Enforcement Torch Run for 18 years and serves on the Torch Run committee. He’s also volunteered with Special Olympics for 21 years as a coach with North Kingstown Special Olympics.
“I currently coach North Kingstown Special Olympics Powerlifting with a team of the best coaches in the state,” he said. “Aside from all of the state records and personal bests, the best thing is to see the athletes and their families realize that anything is possible. Special Olympics is also a family. North Kingstown Special Olympics has always been there for my family, from my wedding to being an honor guard at my dad’s funeral service.”
LeClerc and his wife became involved with Special Olympics when looking for an organization where their daughter Sofia, who has Down syndrome, could be accepted and included.
“We have witnessed this organization change peoples’ lives for the better. None of the programs Special Olympics Rhode Island put on would be possible without the support on the community,” he said. LeClerc’s daughter Sofia walked with him for part of the Super Torch Run as well.
Beltran got involved with Special Olympics years ago while working in the residential program at the J. Arthur Trudeau Memorial Center, which provides services for children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
“A coworker and I were able to volunteer and stay with some of our residents at URI that were competing in Special Olympics,” she said. “Our residents had physical disabilities but none of that mattered, no one was left out. Everyone got a chance to participate and not for just personal gain but for the sheer enjoyment of participating.”