CECIL COUNTY — Seated in a mobility push chair on a North East Community Park pier, Nick Scarberry laughed excitedly Monday afternoon while holding the Flame of Hope — the symbolic torch that is destined to arrive at Towson University in time for the Maryland Special Olympics Summer Games opening ceremony on Friday.
In the morning, about 60 runners, joggers and walkers — escorted by police officers in patrol vehicles and on motorcycles — had made the 10-mile, westward trek from Elkton to that North East park during the annual Cecil County Law Enforcement Special Olympics Torch Run.
A few of the participants took turns toting the special torch. Some of the runners, meanwhile, pushed mobility seats occupied by disabled people, including Scarberry, while pounding the pavement.
Scarberry is a client of Bayside Community Network, an Elkton-area care facility for people with disabilities. Through a combination of therapy, education and training, staff at Bayside try to help individuals become as independent as possible. Bayside has about 200 adult clients who are at various levels, with some learning at the center, some volunteering in the community and some working paying jobs with the skills they have learned.
During a post-run cookout at the park, which abuts the Northeast River, Scarberry was all smiles when he was wheeled to an adjacent pier, where dozens of participants and onlookers gathered to watch.
Scarberry had been selected to pass the Flame of Hope to Natural Resources Police officers, who were on board an agency boat that was docked beside the pier. Also on that vessel was Havre de Grace Police Department Cpl. Daniel Petz, who had been entrusted with taking custody of the torch after it had been passed.
From there, Petz and the NRP officers were to take the torch by boat to Havre de Grace, where the Harford County Law Enforcement Special Olympics Torch Run was set to start Tuesday.
“It’s great we’re taking it (the torch) from county to county like this, making sure it gets to Towson for the Summer Games,” Petz told the Cecil Whig. “It’s a great honor to be a part of taking this torch by boat to Havre de Grace.”
Taking the torch by boat from North East to Havre de Grace marked a first in the annual torch run event, which has taken place for many years.
The significance didn’t appear to be lost on Scarberry, who was beaming and making gleeful noises.
“That is priceless,” a voice in the crowd blurted, seconds before Scarberry handed off the Flame of Hope from the pier to the NRP officer on the boat.
The passing of the torch was met by applause. It was followed by impromptu photo sessions by a few people in the group.
The Flame of Hope will burn from a similar, albeit much larger, torch this weekend during the Maryland Special Olympics Summer Games in which more than 2,000 Special Olympians from throughout the state will compete in track and field events and other summer games.
Through the sale of Special Olympics T-shirts — participants pay $20, while others pay $15 — the Cecil County Law Enforcement Special Olympics Torch Run generates funds for that cause. One of the other major fundraisers is the annual “Cops on Rooftops” at the Chick-fil-A in Elkton.
Maryland State Police Cpl. Michael Cox, one of the event planners, told the Cecil Whig that last year’s local Torch Run raised $3,700 for the cause, while the Cops on Rooftops charity event generated an additional $3,400.
As of Tuesday, the money raised by Monday’s Cecil County Law Enforcement Special Olympics Torch Run had not been officially tallied.