Special Olympics gold medalist and Brunswick resident Megan Rosenberg leading the torch run in Brunswick on Wednesday afternoon. C. Thacher Carter / The Times Record

On Wednesday afternoon, the torch was passed to Special Olympics gold medalist and Brunswick resident Megan Rosenberg. Alongside local officers, Rosenberg – torch in hand – ran from the Freeport town line to the Brunswick Police Department, a distance of about 4.5 miles.

The annual torch run is organized by Special Olympics Maine, where law enforcement departments from across the state run town to town, passing torches to raise money for the games. Special Olympics Maine is part of a global organization that offers sports for children and adults with intellectual and physical disabilities.

Rosenberg, 30, suffered a stroke when she was born, causing cognitive and nonverbal learning disabilities. She first participated in the games in middle school and is now a track and field athlete who has placed first in nationals for the 400-meter run. She also competes in shot put, the mile and the 200m event.

“Special Olympics has brought more confidence in myself, and just that knowing just because I have a disability doesn’t mean that I can’t do what other people can do, like running a race,” Rosenberg said.

“It’s freeing, and it kind of gives me a chance to not worry about my disability,” she added.

About 300 law enforcement members across 60 Maine agencies and departments are participating in the run this year. Typically, the event draws around 650 participants and takes place in June, ending in Orono for the kick-off of the summer Special Olympic games. The winter games usually take place at Sugarloaf in January.

This year the run was downsized and moved later in the year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2020, the event was fully virtual.

About ten people participated in Brunswick’s portion of the run on Wednesday, made up of both officers and community members. One of the runners, Detective Sergeant William Moir of Brunswick Police Department has been participating in the run since 1999.

“I had an uncle with a developmental disability, and where I grew up was a small town and he was supported by the community,” Moir said. “Now that I am kind of in a position to give back, I like to.”

Participants stand for a photo on Wednesday before the annual torch run in benefit of Special Olympics Maine. C. Thacher Carter / The Times Record

In the past, Moir said he would attend the summer games, and the department would host a barbeque at the police department in collaboration with the Independence Association, a local organization in Brunswick that provides support services for individuals with developmental disabilities and autism.

“It’s awesome to see the smiles on the athlete’s faces,” Moir said. “As long as I can keep up, I’m going to continue going on the run.”

The Special Olympics was started in 1968, and the Maine branch was launched in 1969. The Law Enforcement Torch Run came to Maine in 1984.

Statewide, roughly 340,000 or 1 in 3 adults have a disability, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Disability types, according to the CDC, include mobility, cognition, independent living, hearing, vision and self-care.

According to Lisa Bird, the organization’s director of public relations, Special Olympics Maine currently serves 5,109 children and adults who have intellectual disabilities and, before COVID-19, offered upwards of 75 in-person events a year.

The organization offers around 20 Olympic style sports, including alpine skiing, speedskating, equestrian, aquatics, golf, soccer and sailing. Bird said the money that is raised will be reinvested into programs, specifically funding equipment, venues, food and uniforms.

“Our budget is about $1.3 million, we only have four people in the entire state who are paid staff, so people can feel really good about the money that the officers are raising because they know that that money is all going to benefit those 5,000 athletes,” Bird said.

As of Thursday, according to the website, $2,750 of the $50,000 goal had been raised. A virtual run is also being offered to the public through Nov. 30. For more information, visit somaine.org.

Rosenberg, Moir and other participants running down Route 1 on Wednesday. C. Thacher Carter / The Times Record

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