By STEVE LEE
© St. Petersburg Times, published April 24, 2001
LAND O'LAKES -- Law enforcement officers weren't chasing youngsters along U.S. 41 on Monday morning. They were running with them.
In all, 45 runners from the Pasco County Sheriff's Office and the Florida Highway Patrol jogged from County Line Road at the Hillsborough-Pasco line to the Fraternal Order of Police lodge, just north of Bell Lake Road, as part of the Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics.
They were joined for the last half-mile of the 5-kilometer (3.1 miles) run by a contingent of local Special Olympians, coaches and volunteers.
"We just joined in," said volunteer Kelly Jackson, adding that the Special Olympians "loved it. They were happy to go along the way."
"I think the kids are fired up now," said Mike Ford, who will coach a soccer team from Pine View Middle School at the State Special Olympics on Friday and Saturday in Kissimmee.
"I don't think (some of the Special Olympians) realized what it was for, but law enforcement raises a lot of money for Special Olympics," added Vicky King, who helps coach a Land O'Lakes High soccer team that will participate in the games.
Part of those funds, estimated at $3,000, will be used to help three soccer teams from Land O'Lakes, which also includes a squad from Sanders Elementary, along with cyclists Shelly Point and Catondra Hampton.
The cyclists and the soccer teams won county and regional competitions to qualify for the games, which will feature 2,100 athletes.
Soccer players who joined law enforcement officials in Monday's run included Steven Ponds, Aaron Secunda, Wesley Lewis, Coralea Redgrave, Samantha Manley, Joe Luster, Jonathan Skrodzki, John Thompson and Carla Sedlymar.
Coaches Ron Bower, Ford and King were joined by volunteers Rich Neste, Beth Kinsman, Chris Majowics, Chris Pabst, Stacy Bishop, Marlon Gordon and Jackson.
Sheriff's departments statewide have taken part in the torch run that began April 2 in Pensacola and concludes Friday at the opening ceremonies at Osceola County Stadium.
Jim Nagy, a sergeant with the Pasco County Sheriff's Office, has organized the past two torch runs through the county and was encouraged with this year's turnout, up from 30 runners last year.
"Maybe this will be like a catalyst," Nagy said.