Torch run helps kick off Special Olympics activities

JACKSON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - Law enforcement and supporters from across Jackson County laced up their shoes to run while raising awareness for the Special Olympics.

East Central High's John Lankford has Cerebral Palsy, which his parents said caused some physical disabilities.  But the 18-year-old is not letting that stop him from being an athletic competitor.

"He always continued to what he could. We didn't know he had in his mind that he really wanted to run," father Jeff Browning said.

He is now part of the school's cross country team something some doctors told him wouldn't be possible. Pascagoula law enforcers were so impressed by the story, they asked John to participate in the Special Olympics Torch Run.

"Our role is not just to right tickets, and enforce the law, but to support the community. To support these events and help out anyway we can," said Pascagoula Police Officer Doug Adams.

Moss Point Police started the run, then handed off the torch to Pascagoula. Dozens of officers, John and a few of his classmates ran all the way to Gautier. Those citizens, teachers and students who didn't run were on the sidelines cheering for the runners along the way.

"It is never easy to run six miles, but it's definitely worth it to get out and support the Special Olympics," Joseph Bignell said.

The run not only builds awareness, but it also shows folks anything is possible with hard work.

"They can do anything they put their mind to. It is important the community gets involved and supports and gives them the avenue to train and give them all the tools they need to achieve the goals they set for themselves," runner Michael Harvey said.

After miles of running and sweating, John Lankford and the law enforcement team finished strong. They handed off the torch to Gautier, showing people what true determination looks like.

Friday, the scene shifts to Highway 90 in Harrison County. The state's Special Olympics athletes will be at Keesler Air Force Base Friday night and Saturday.

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