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).