HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) — Local law enforcement is carrying the “Flame of Hope” to help raise funds and awareness for thousands of athletes competing in the Alabama Special Olympics.

Wednesday morning, dozens of law enforcement officials between the Madison County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) and the Huntsville Police Department volunteered their time to participate in the annual Alabama Law Enforcement Torch Run. For more than 40 years, the state has shown its support for those who compete in the Special Olympics.

“Letting the Special Olympics community know, hey, you’re number one to us in our community,” said MCSO’s spokesman Brent Patterson. “There are a lot of things that are important to us, but Alabama and Huntsville area, Madison County Special Olympics is there at the top.”

The money raised from the run will help fund Special Olympics programs for athletes and their families free of charge.

This year the torch run took off in the Rocket City. But for many, the torch burns for more than the games. It burns for officers who’ve been lost.

“It’s a somber day also because we’re running for Investigator Steve Finley and five others who were tragically killed in the line of duty last year,” Patterson told News 19.

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Finley was a long-time MCSO Deputy Investigator. He died in January 2022 from COVID-19 complications.

Ryan Burch with the Huntsville Police Academy says the departments are there to carry the torch and their fallen officer’s legacies.

“It’s a great representation not only of the department but of those fallen officers that we have. It’s a chance to remember them and to do something that is meaningful in their memory.”

The run will carry the flame through 10 cities where the torch will be passed from department to department until it reaches its final destination at Troy University. About 1,000 athletes will compete over the weekend in the 14th Special Olympics State Games.