Alaska Law Enforcement Torch Run and Pledge Drive sees its best turnout in years

    From left to right: Tammi Birch, athlete, Branden Forst, Alaska Wildlife Trooper, and Fu Bao Hartle, athlete, stand at the start line. (Photo credit Jasz Garrett/KINY)

    Juneau, Alaska (KINY) - Juneau saw an amazing turnout for the annual Alaska Law Enforcement Torch Run and Pledge Drive Saturday morning at Twin Lakes.

    Alaska State Troopers, the Juneau Police Department, and others from the Public Safety Department participated in Juneau.

    Global Credit Union donated volunteers.

    Kirt Stage-Harvey, a detective with JPD and a board member of the Alaska Peace Officers Association (APOA) spoke with News of the North about the event. 

    "We've had a great event today. It was slow registrations coming up to the event last week and I was a little worried about the turnout. Especially with all the sunny weather, you never know who's gonna show up, but it was rainy today. I think in the last few days, so many people registered. We have probably double the amount that we did here two years ago," he shared. "Last year we did it at Thunder Mountain High School, which is a beautiful venue, but they have the track meet going on there today. So Twin Lakes has been our standby. We've been here for years, and it's just a great visible space to have this event for the community."

    He explained what's special for him about the Torch Run.

    "What I love is I've gotten to know a lot of athletes over the years, know them by name and their families. Fu Bao especially, we did interviews together," Stage-Harvey said. "And running with them. That's a great thing too. I'm not here to win a race. So I get to run at a leisurely pace and I get to meet up with a lot of different athletes on the trail and run with them as well."

    Erann Kalwara is an APOA member and JPD's Public Safety Manager.

    "I'm excited because it's great to see everybody here, and everybody's happy and having a good time," she said. "It's a wonderful fundraiser."

    APOA also organizes Shop With A Cop and The National Peace Officer's Memorial Day.

    "What's really cool is they look up to law enforcement, and they respect us and our position," Stage-Harvey added.

    Fu Bao Hartle is a Special Olympics Athlete. He was chosen to represent Special Olympics for the state of Alaska.

    "It's just amazing. This is just a really amazing crowd. I'm real proud of how many came today," Hartle said. "I want to say to everybody, thank you, thank you Juneau for turning out. We need this. Every money we raise stays in Juneau."

    Before the event took place, Hartle and his mom, Clare Pavia encouraged people to come. Hartle said it's one of his big goals to let people know in the community there's a space for them. He is also a health messenger.

    Michelle Umbs, a Special Olympics swim coach and acting community director also gave comment on the turnout.

    "I just want to thank everyone. This was the largest turnout we've had in years and it's raining so this is awesome," she said. "We are looking at close to $15,000 raised in donations today. So that's pretty amazing."

    Her son, C.J. Umbs, has been participating in the Special Olympics since he was eight years old, and the family was given an APOA plaque for their years of service and volunteering with the program.

    "We've been with the program for 21 years," Umbs shared. "My husband is a state trooper and he's out there walking."

    The Torch Run has been occurring for over 20 years in both Juneau and nationwide.

    13 other communities across Alaska participated simultaneously Saturday morning.

    Along with the nearly $15,000 raised for Juneau, local businesses donated items and certificates that were drawn after the Torch Run. Athletes enjoyed Subway sandwiches and McDonald's ice cream cones.

    Above: Michelle Umbs and Kirt Stage-Harvey lead the prize giveaways. Below: C.J. Umbs finishes the Torch Run and is congratulated by Wildlife Trooper Branden Forst (left) and JPD Lt. Krag Campbell (right). (Photo credit Jasz Garrett/KINY)

    Lee Lewis is the bowling coach and assistant basketball coach. She talked about signing up for bowling this fall.

    "Bowling is going to start on August 20th and we bowl for eight weeks. And then, depending on what our quote is, that will determine how many teams we get to take to Anchorage for the State Games. That's always in November," Lewis shared. "So bowling is our next sport, and we will have a picnic. I always have a picnic a week before we start. The picnic will be here at Twin Lakes on August 13th. And then bowling will start on August 20th."

    Lewis has been the bowling coach for 22 years and she said it's wonderful to get to know and work with the athletes.

    Hartle also encouraged people to sign up for bowling. He said it's his favorite sport and he's been bowling for 11 years.

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    Above: Kate and Callan Foster step over the police tape finish line. Below: Lisa Petersen and her daughter Amanda Lambert stand for a photo. It's Lambert's first year in the Special Olympics. She also participates in the Transitions Program at Thunder Mountain High School which helps with job, life, and social skills. (Photo credit Jasz Garrett/KINY)

    Below: Athletes during the Torch Run. (Photo credit Jasz Garrett/KINY)

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