BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Louisiana Special Olympics staged a beautiful ceremony in Baton Rouge's Town Square Wednesday night.
A Special Olympian Stephen Leach held the flaming torch high, accompanied by his grandparents. His grandmother is CEO of Special Olympics Louisiana.
Leach watched his steps carefully as he brought the important flame to a stage where a receiving group featuring Special Olympians, Miss Louisiana Lacey Sanchez, Judge Trudi White and law enforcement welcomed the Unified Law Enforcement Torch Run to Baton Rouge.
It's called the Unified Torch Run because the flame began its travels in Athens, Greece and was carried to Washington, D.C. where its national run began May 14. The flame then split into three torches and began journeys immediately starting in Augusta, Maine, Miami, Florida and Washington, D.C.
President of Louisiana Special Olympics, Pat Carpenter Bourgeois, says that the Law Enforcement Torch Run generates passionate support for Special Olympics in the towns where it passes.
With great pageantry, it happened leading into the weekend's big event in a Louisiana city, making people aware so they can fill the spectator stands and cheer. That spark spreads into nearby states too.
"We're headed from Baton Rouge tomorrow to Lake Charles," Bourgeois said. "So that we'll be able to light the flame there and energize that community, and then it will be on its way to Texas and then the West Coast."
The excitement is stirred over 46 days and all 50 states. They line up more than 20,000 torchbearers to take part. Each runner carries it 1/2 mile or a 5-mile segment.
"Anyone can be a torchbearer!" National Special Olympic officials declared.
The Unified Relay will end up at the Opening Ceremony of the 2015 Special Olympic World Games in Los Angeles on July 25. ESPN will carry the event at 8 p.m. and host a nightly program with highlights from the competitions throughout the nine-day event.