The Potential of Ideas


Last night, the Mebane Police Department hosted a Spaghetti Dinner Fundraiser for Special Olympics. Spaghetti is good, and community dinners are always good (especially when they coincide with Early Voting in the same building).

The fundraiser got me thinking also about the Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics. As I sat there, eating my spaghetti, salad, roll, and cupcake, I wondered how the law enforcement-Special Olympics connection was ever forged. I set out to do some research.

First, Special Olympics got underway as the brainchild of Eunice Kennedy Shriver who was influenced by growing up and playing sports with her sister Rosemary. That story, itself, is inspiring. The first summer day camp was held in Ms. Shriver’s backyard in 1962. [1]

The first International Special Olympics were held in Chicago in 1968. In 1979, the Police Chief of Wichita, Richard LaMunyon, was asked to give out awards at the Kansas Special Olympics Games, which he agreed to do, even though he did not know much about the organization. He was impressed that the Special Olympics participants “transcend all boundaries: race, economic, and social status” [2]–a cross-segment of the communities officers serve. In 1980, he encouraged off-duty officers and their families to volunteer and serve the banquet meal. (During the intervening year, the department also raised the $20,000 for the banquet.) [3]

The Wichita Police Department had a running club, of which Officer Don “Barney” Ipsen was a member. He approached Chief LaMunyon with the idea of a Torch Run as another way to be involved, and six officers participated that year. Afterwards, Chief LaMunyon took the idea to Ms. Shriver and to the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP). His vision was that the Torch Run could become a national fundraising event that was specific to law enforcement. The idea was approved by both groups in 1983. [4]


  • Someone had the idea to ask the police chief to hand out medals.
  • The police chief started involving the officers and their families.
  • A member of the officers’ running club had an idea for a local Torch Run that initially involved six people.
  • The police chief made the contacts and showcased the success of the local event, turning it into a national partnership.
  • It is now “the largest grass-roots fundraiser and public awareness vehicle for the Special Olympics.” [5]

Today, whether it is a spaghetti dinner or the Torch Run, the Special Olympics and police officers are connected. Thank you to the Mebane Police Department for continuing this tradition.

What is your idea? Maybe you should run with it!



[1] Special Olympics, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, Special Olympics (Mar. 11, 2015, 9:47 PM),
[2] Donna Zimmerman, Roots of Kansas Law Enforcement Torch Run: As Told to Donna Zimmerman from Chief Richard LaMunyon October 19, 2010, Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. Foundation (2010),
[3] Id.
[4] Id.
[5] Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics, (last visited Mar. 11, 2015).


Lessons for Organizations and Life from a Red Cross Weekend

The Red Cross had a Disaster Training Institute last weekend at Laurel Ridge, up in Alleghany County, North Carolina. I don’t think they could have picked a better location. The people and the rooms were welcoming, we had three classrooms to use right there in the same building, and the mountain views were phenomenal.

While the entire weekend was wonderful, there were a couple of key takeaways for me that can be applied to life in general–not just the Red Cross.

The Red Cross values people more than I had internalized before. Not only was this emphasized verbally during the various sessions, but, more importantly, I witnessed it. Volunteers who were new and volunteers and staff with 30 to 40 years of experience were treated with the same respect, and my very knowledgeable instructors in one class were often my classmates in another. I was impressed with how late-comers to class (understandably unavoidable sometimes) were naturally incorporated into the group. People from different areas intermingled and enjoyed being together. In addition, I learned the importance the Red Cross places on trusting people with firsthand knowledge in the disaster cycle (preparing, responding, recovering).*

Knowing what to expect is helpful. Disasters range in size from something affecting a single home to one that affects many people–and large scale incidents often evolve in size and complexity. Understanding beforehand that increasing the scale of a response will often result in shifting people into different positions of responsibility and why that is the case decreases confusion during a change.

The Red Cross is enthusiastically embracing technology that will make delivery of service even better.

Relationships are important, both within the Red Cross and with people in community organizations and government agencies. Strengthening those relationships through regular interaction during non-disaster times is important so that familiarity and trust are already in place in times of need. Spending a few days together with other Red Crossers was probably as beneficial to me as the classes themselves.


It was a great experience, on many levels.



*The importance of firsthand knowledge reminded me of the scope of judicial review.