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PHOTOS: Law Enforcement Torch Run Through North Jersey Draws Rays, Cheers

SLIDESHOW: Zoltan Horvath
SLIDESHOW: Zoltan Horvath Video Credit: Digital Vision Photography
Donna Birch with Special Olympian Kevin.
Donna Birch with Special Olympian Kevin. Photo Credit: COURTESY: Donna DeRemer Birch
Kevin carries the torch from Midland Park.
Kevin carries the torch from Midland Park. Photo Credit: COURTESY: Donna DeRemer Birch
Bergen County Sheriff Michael Saudino lights a torch
Bergen County Sheriff Michael Saudino lights a torch Photo Credit: COURTESY: Bergen County Sheriff's Office
The Garfield crew.
The Garfield crew. Photo Credit: COURTESY: Garfield PD
Here's comes Carlstadt and East Rutherford.
Here's comes Carlstadt and East Rutherford. Photo Credit: COURTESY: Karyn Ochiuzzo
Spectators lined streets in Bergen and Passaic.
Spectators lined streets in Bergen and Passaic. Photo Credit: COURTESY: Karyn Ochiuzzo
Carlstadt and East Rutherford united.
Carlstadt and East Rutherford united. Photo Credit: COURTESY: Karyn Ochiuzzo
There they go.
There they go. Photo Credit: COURTESY: Karyn Ochiuzzo
Hackensack police run past headquarters.
Hackensack police run past headquarters. Photo Credit: COURTESY: Hackensack PD
Hackensack's Finest.
Hackensack's Finest. Photo Credit: COURTESY: Hackensack PD
Norwood strong.
Norwood strong. Photo Credit: COURTESY: Kate Cerbasi
The Norwood crew.
The Norwood crew. Photo Credit: COURTESY: Reidun Sullivan / Norwood PTO president
Norwood police, youngsters.
Norwood police, youngsters. Photo Credit: COURTESY: Reidun Sullivan / Norwood PTO president
Paramus's Finest.
Paramus's Finest. Photo Credit: COURTESY: Paramus Mayor Richard LaBarbiera
Hilldale's finest and friends
Hilldale's finest and friends Photo Credit: COURTESY: Hillsdale PBA
Oakland's finest.
Oakland's finest. Photo Credit: COURTESY: Larry Mays
Wyckoff's finest.
Wyckoff's finest. Photo Credit: COURTESY: Wyckoff PD
Runners charge through Emerson.
Runners charge through Emerson. Photo Credit: Jackie Lang
Saddle River's finest
Saddle River's finest Photo Credit: COURTESY: Saddle River Police
Upper Saddle River's finest and friends
Upper Saddle River's finest and friends Photo Credit: COURTESY: Upper Saddle River Police
Passaic County Corrections PBA 197 ran in Leg 5
Passaic County Corrections PBA 197 ran in Leg 5 Photo Credit: COURTESY: NJ Law Enforcement Torch Run
Passaic Police Department's finest and friends
Passaic Police Department's finest and friends Photo Credit: COURTESY: Passaic Police Department
Little Ferry's finest and friends
Little Ferry's finest and friends Photo Credit: COURTESY: Little Ferry PD
Members of the Mahwah Police Department and Bergen County police recruits
Members of the Mahwah Police Department and Bergen County police recruits Photo Credit: COURTESY: NJ Law Enforcement Torch Run
Pascack Valley's finest and friends
Pascack Valley's finest and friends Photo Credit: COURTESY: Zoltan Horvath
High five!
High five! Photo Credit: COURTESY: Zoltan Horvath
Pascack Valley strong
Pascack Valley strong Photo Credit: COURTESY: Zoltan Horvath
East Rutherford officers ran from Hoboken Road to Park Avenue, where they crossed the tracks and passed the torch to Rutherford officers
East Rutherford officers ran from Hoboken Road to Park Avenue, where they crossed the tracks and passed the torch to Rutherford officers Photo Credit: COURTESY: East Rutherford Police

Among thousands of participants in the 33th Annual Special Olympics Law Enforcement Torch Run that made its way through North Jersey on a sun-splashed Friday morning were James and Donna Birchof Midland Park.

Their son, Police Officer Christopher Birch was killed last July in an ATV crash in Pennsylvania.

Throngs cheered for the couple and nearly 3,000 others who ushered a "Flame of Hope" through 50 legs across nearly 1,000 miles -- stopping at or passing through just about every town in Bergen and Passaic counties.

The ultimate destination: The College of New Jersey in Ewing, where the torch was to light a cauldron officially launching the Special Olympics New Jersey 2016 Summer Games around 7:30 p.m.

The games run through the weekend, with more than 2,500 athletes competing in seven sports: aquatics, bocce, gymnastics, power-lifting, softball, tennis and track & field.

CLICK THE ARROWS to view the photos above ( SEND PHOTOS to: jdemarco@dailyvoice.com ).

A leg set off Friday from the Northvale ShopRite at 7 a.m. Another leg left the Wayne Municipal Complex at 6:30 a.m. and another from Hawthorne police headquarters at 7:45 a.m.

Another leg left the Garfield Police Department at 8:30 a.m. City police were to pass their torch to their Saddle Brook colleagues, who were to carry it to Lodi on its way to Harrison.

A torch left Clifton at 1 p.m., while another was to be passed in Edgewater and Fairview around 2 p.m.

“The Torch Run is the culmination of the many hours that members of law enforcement volunteer each year,” retired Port Authority Police Chief Robert Belfiore said. “It is symbolic of the commitment and dedication that New Jersey law enforcement has for Special Olympics athletes in this state and the camaraderie that has developed between law enforcement and Special Olympics athletes."

Special Olympics New Jersey relies mostly on individual, corporate, civic and foundation contributions. One of its top grassroots contributors, the Law Enforcement Torch Run (LETR) is part of an international campaign coordinated and managed by all divisions of law enforcement officers and officials from throughout the world.

MORE INFO / DONATE: http://www.sonj.org/

Wichita Police Chief Richard LaMunyon launched the International Torch Run in 1981. New Jersey held its first run in 1984, from Liberty State Park in Jersey City to Rutgers Stadium in New Brunswick.

The international event has expanded throughout the U.S. to 35 nations and 12 Canadian provinces.

Special Olympics New Jersey provides free year-round sports training and athletic competition in 24 Olympic-type sports for more than 23,000 children and adults with intellectual disabilities, giving them continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy and participate in a sharing of gifts, skills and friendship with their families, other Special Olympics athletes and the community.

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