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Southern California Torch Run For The Special Olympics Kicks Off In San Diego

Torch Run For The Special Olympics Kicks Off In San Diego

Law enforcement officials from throughout San Diego County kicked off a nine-day Southern California torch run Tuesday for the 2014 summer Special Olympics.

Eric Weber is the torchbearer for the southern leg of the Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics. He is one of 76 athletes from Southern California expected to travel to New Jersey to compete in the games in less than three weeks. Weber is autistic and was told at an early age he would probably end up living in a skilled nursing facility.

This summer, Weber will compete in both long and short distance races, including the 4x100 relay with three other San Diego athletes. He’s been involved with Special Olympics for more than 15 years.

"I'm happy to say that it gives me a lot of confidence and helps me to help others develop likewise," Weber said.

Weber took off running his leg of the torch run from Chula Vista Police Department headquarters.

“For us it’s extra special, we’ve been hosting the kickoff for the law enforcement torch [run] for about 11 years,” said Chula Vista Police Chief David Bejarano.

Similar runs with other torches are being held across the country between now and start of the games.

The annual torch runs began in Kansas in 1981 as a goodwill event between the officers who run and the communities they serve. Over the years, the runs have grown to include a fundraising arm in which officers who participate collect donations from individuals, businesses and other groups. The money goes to help offset expenses for the intellectually disabled athletes competing in the games.

Bejarano says the torch run is a fun event for the officers who support athletes like Weber.

“Here we are now, he’s in his third year of law school, running beyond the first leg, being a spokesperson for the Special Olympics. So that really shows us what we can do when the community is working together,” Bejarano said.

Tuesday’s portion of the run covered 33 miles, from Chula Vista to Torrey Pines. The run goes to Camp Pendleton on Wednesday, and Marines will eventually hand off the torch to officers in Orange County. The torch’s final destination on the Southern California run is the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. The torch is expected to arrive there June 6.

City News Service contributed to this report.