A small stretch of road.
By car, the 1.2 miles from the top of the Walnut Street Bridge to the Garden State Parkway on Westfield Avenue would take a little over two minutes. Following that same route on foot at a jogging pace while holding a torch makes you realize how many dips and climbs there are on the road. It also makes you realize how really challenging a path can be and the determination needed to accomplish it.
The Roselle Park Police Department (RPPD) took part in not just one, but two legs of this year’s Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics New Jersey yesterday. RPPD officers ran almost three miles of the over 750 miles that Law Enforcement officers ran throughout the state to bring the Special Olympics torch to Lions Stadium at The College of New Jersey (TCNJ) in Ewing to commemorate the start of the 2014 NJ Special Olympics Summer Games.
Three miles may not seem much, until you run it.
What was supposed to start at Walnut Street and Westfield Avenue expanded once RPPD officers heard that Roselle would have no Law Enforcement Officer to carry the torch that leg of the run. In previous years, Roselle Police Officer Thomas Soban would run accompanied by a group of Elizabeth Law Enforcement Officers (LEOs) along First Avenue but he had retired last year. Arriving at the meeting point of Shop-Rite on West Grand Street (which becomes First Ave a block later), they met up with LEOs from Elizabeth and Thomas Soban who, although retired, put on his running shoes to carry the torch for his town. RPPD Officer James Kompany and Detective Robert Harms accompanied him, along with over a dozen Elizabeth LEOs, to carry the torch.
At a parking lot right before Walnut Street a group of people were sitting out in lawn chairs that, at first, seemed to be out of place, but as the runners paced closer cheers and applause erupted in support and gratitude. The building was a residential service facility for Arc of Union County; a non-profit organization that cares for and assists individuals with developmental disabilities. Both caretakers and residents were clapping and hooting as the runners paused from their run to shake hands and give high fives.
After that brief respite, the runners again took to the road and crossed the Walnut Street Bridge to meet their fellow officers who were waiting for them and continued on Westfield Avenue. A few other special moments awaited them as they jogged along, including one woman on the eastbound side of Route 28 who had apparently been waiting for them to pass by. Clapping as they ran by she elatedly yelled out, “Thank You!”
Meeting up with runners in Cranford, the torch was handed over again so the run could continue through Union County and the state to finish at the Opening Ceremonies of the 2014 Special Olympics Summer Games, which showcases more than 2,500 athletes. The Games run through Sunday, June 1st. More information can be found by visiting sonj.org (link).
Police Dispatcher Jessica Diaz, Detective Sergeant Dominick Frino, Detective Robert Harms, Patrolman James Kompany, Patrolman Michael Smith, and Sergeant Michael Wielgus ran the leg for Roselle Park.