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Law enforcement officers raise money for Special Olympics in Red Deer

Free Out Finest being held throughout weekend at north Walmart
Brad Cotmen, with Alberta Sheriffs, holds his son Callum while standing next to Special Olympics athlete Bobbi-Jo Lohnes during the Law Enforcement Torch Run’s Free Our Finest fundraiser for Special Olympics on Saturday. (Photo by Sean McIntosh/Advocate staff)

Law enforcement officers camped out on top of a building to raise money for Special Olympics.

The Alberta Law Enforcement Torch Run hosted its annual Free Our Finest fundraiser for Special Olympics at the Parkland Mall Walmart this weekend – the event began Friday and will wrap up Sunday.

“We have officers stay up on scaffolding that’s built next to the Walmart entrance,” said Brad Cotmen, who works with Alberta Sheriffs at the Red Deer courthouse.

“They stay up there until we reach a certain goal. If we reach that goal, those people are allowed to come down and we put another two officers up there. Alternatively, they can elect to stay up there until the end of the weekend – usually they decide to stay.”

Officers with Alberta Sheriffs, RCMP detachments in Red Deer and Drayton Valley, the local operational communications centre, Alberta Conservation, Alberta Animal Services and Alberta Corrections are participating in the event. Special Olympics volunteers joined the officers atop the Walmart as well.

The overall goal for this year’s event is to raise $20,000 for Special Olympics.

“We’ve been fairly consistent raising that much in Red Deer with all of our events since about 2014,” Cotmen said.

Special Olympics is a great organization to support, Cotmen added.

“It’s a great cause because it helps the longevity of the athletes, it helps their self-esteem. A lot of the people who get involved with Special Olympics go on to live more full lives,” said Cotmen.

“(The athletes) get to do a sport that they love. They get to choose what they like – no one is pushing them to do anything. They go and try out a bunch of different sports and whatever they like, they stick with.”

Jerry Tennant, Special Olympics Red Deer chair, said Free Our Finest is a big fundraiser for the organization.

“This is probably our biggest fundraiser for the year,” said Tennant.

“We share the funds with Special Olympics Alberta, but even then it’s a major fundraiser. It’s important for the funds that we raise and the exposure that we get for our programs available for our athletes and what Special Olympics is all about.”

Special Olympics programs were unable to run throughout much of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The past two years have been really tough on (the athletes),” said Tennant.

“Special Olympics means so much to so many of them. Not only is it a sporting organization … but it’s also a social gathering for them.

“Barring any unforeseen circumstances, we’ll have a full year of programs, activities, social activities and competitions. We also have the provincial winter games in February in the County of Strathcona. We’ll be sending a lot of athletes to that.”

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Sean McIntosh

About the Author: Sean McIntosh

Sean joined the Red Deer Advocate team in the summer of 2017. Originally from Ontario, he worked in a small town of 2,000 in Saskatchewan for seven months before coming to Central Alberta.
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