‘We are the guardians of acceptance and inclusion’: Community Torch Run kicks of this year’s Cullman Area Special Needs Track & Field Day

Runners take a ceremonial lap around the track at Oliver Wood Stadium on the campus of Cullman High School to kick off this year’s Cullman Area Special Needs Track & Field Day Friday.  (Nick Griffin for The Cullman Tribune)

CULLMAN, Ala. – Community leaders and members of the Cullman community gathered at the courthouse steps Friday morning as the torch was lit for the Cullman Area Special Needs Track & Field Day. The Community Torch Run began at the courthouse and traveled through town on its way to the athletes waiting at Oliver Woodard Stadium on the campus of Cullman High School. After a heartwarming and celebratory lap around the track, the games got underway.

Cullman City Police Chief Kenny Culpepper reminded the participants in the torch run, “Law enforcement, we are the guardians of acceptance and inclusion. This is what this is about. We in law enforcement are the guardians of the flame- the flame of hope. I am proud of every one of you.”

Cullman County Sherriff Matt Gentry led the run and before the run, Gentry dedicated this year’s run to Sgt. Arvel Allison, Deputy Timmy Puckett and Tim Collins.

Cullman County Commissioner Garry Marchman said to the runners, “I wanted to give a special thanks to the folks that put this on. That’s the rapid responders, the sheriff’s department and the police department. All those are involved in making this happen. I know it’s going to be a great day. Ya’ll go get em.”

“We have people from every aspect of different careers here and that’s why we call it the Community Torch Run. The torch is a symbol of peace, unity and friendship. Our focus needs to be on the athletes and we want to make sure they are the ones we focus on when we get there,” Lt. Rex Sorrow said as the torch was lit.

As the runners entered Oliver Woodward Stadium, the torch was passed to one of the many cheering athletes as “Eye of the Tiger” played from the speakers. All the athletes along with their teachers, coaches, mentors and friends circled the stadium in a fantastic display of love and sportsmanship. Members of local high school Key Clubs helped and supported the athletes.

See a full photo gallery of the day’s events at http://bit.ly/2ZC15lI.

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Christy Perry