Bibb deputies keep Special Olympics tradition without torch

Bibb County deputies participate in the Special Olympics torch run Thursday, May 21, 2015.
Bibb County deputies participate in the Special Olympics torch run Thursday, May 21, 2015.

A SWAT Team training conflict did not keep Bibb County deputies from making their annual run this week for Special Olympics.

The officers usually join a relay with colleagues from Warner Robins and Houston County as the torch makes its way to the games.

Since they could not run Wednesday, more than a dozen Bibb SWAT and Explosive Ordnance Disposal officers took to the streets Thursday instead.

“We just had an opportunity to run (Thursday) ourselves, so that’s why we’re out here doing it, so we don’t miss out on our leg of it,” Bibb SWAT Commander Lt. David Freeland said.

The tradition dates back about 20 years, he said.

Deputies had the option of borrowing a torch but carried the SWAT flag, or guidon, instead.

The lack of flame did not quell a burning desire to support the program for children and adults with intellectual disabilities.

“It’s just doing something for somebody special that can’t get out there and do it for themselves,” Freeland said. “It just feels good to do something like that for them.”

Shortly after 9 a.m., deputies began the five-mile “guidon gallop” in the right lane of Broadway, up the steep hill toward Eisenhower Parkway and onto Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

The incline was the toughest trek, but the athletes inspired them to press on.

“The Special Olympians, when they’re out there and they compete, they’re giving 100 percent,” Bibb Explosive Ordnance Disposal Commander Lt. Billy Skinner said. “They’re giving everything they’ve got to their competition, and that’s what we expect from our guys.”

The traffic light turned red at just the right time to allow the men to turn up Poplar Street to finish at the Macon-Bibb County Government Center.

“It’s another one in the books,” said Skinner, who has been running the torch for 13 years. “It was a good run. Everybody started together. Everybody finished together, which is what we like to see.”

Warner Robins police also had to shift their run from Wednesday to Friday due to the funeral for retired Capt. Charlie Sadlo Jr.

At 8 a.m., they will be running and cycling from the Houston County Courthouse in Perry to northbound Houston Lake Road, where they are expected to pass Feagin Mill Road about 9:15 a.m.

The route continues to eastbound Watson Boulevard to finish at headquarters about 11:30 a.m. Officers from the Houston County Sheriff’s Office, as well as the Centerville and Central Georgia Technical College police departments, also are taking part.

Officers will be in the right lane, so motorists are urged to use caution passing the group.

Special Olympics Law Enforcement Torch Run liaison Matthew Sheridan said the runs help promote the games, which will be at Emory University in Atlanta May 29-31.

“It’s great to have as many agencies as possible,” Sheridan said.

To contact writer Liz Fabian, call 744-4303.