Greater Sudbury Police Service (GSPS) hosted its first Law Enforcement Snowmobile Torch Run Sunday (Feb. 23), building upon an already impressive lineup of fundraisers benefiting Special Olympics Ontario.
The run took around 18 participants through 210 km of the popular Azilda Cartier Moose Loop and took a little over eight hours to complete. Ultimately raising around $800 for Special Olympics Ontario, in what is believed to be the province's first event of its kind.
Blazing a trail alongside participants was Nolan Windle, GSPS constable and brainchild behind Sunday's event, and organizer of Sudbury's Law Enforcement Motorcycle Torch Ride.
Windle has been involved in charitable work long before he joined GSPS 11 years ago, he said, making the decision to accept the extra workload an easy one.
"Might as well raise funds and have fun doing it at the same time," he said.
But despite being a life-long resident of Sudbury, raised in Chelmsford, Windle had never driven a snowmobile prior to Sunday, he said. His inspiration was solely a desire to give back.
"Anything with a motor I enjoy thoroughly - so why not," he said before the ride. "I'll probably get hooked and want to buy a rocket ship after this."
To prepare, Windle said he watched a significant amount of YouTube videos and sought "experienced council." No injuries were reported.
He was joined that afternoon by Special Olympian Danie Houle and her father Terry, who were much more comfortable on the trails than their amateur host.
Danie has been snowmobiling since she was three, said Terry, while he has been perfecting the practice since 1968. Making the Law Enforcement Snowmobile Torch Run the perfect opportunity to spend time together and support a program that means so much to them.
At home, Terry said his daughter spends the majority of her time in her room drawing and writing songs. But when she's participating in Special Olympics, they see a new side of their social butterfly.
"When she takes part in Special Olympics with her friends she's very outgoing, high-fiving everyone, cheering them on...she's a bit of a mother hen," he said. "It lifts her spirits...gets her out of her shell."
To Terry and his daughter, the program is more than sport, it is friendship.
"Special Olympics Ontario is one of the preferred charities, not only for the Association of Chiefs of Police but many police services across Ontario and certainly that of the Greater Sudbury Police Service," said Dan Despatie, GSPS inspector.
"Special Olympics champions acceptance and inclusion for people with intellectual disabilities (and) really gives them an opportunity to participate in things they may not otherwise have the opportunity to."
But the relationship between the police force and Special Olympics extends far past that of financial support, he went on to say.
Many members are long-time coaches and over the years developed life-long friendships with participants and their families, said Despatie, making the event "near and dear" to their hearts.
Find more information on Special Olympics Ontario here.