SANTA BARBARA COUNTY, Calif. - The Special Olympics Law Enforcement Torch Run is taking place both virtually and in person this year throughout Southern California.
Each county that's been able to coordinate a run has been hosting its own mile-by-mile event.
In Santa Barbara County, several agencies passed the torch in multiple spots from Gaviota to the county line at Bates Road Thursday.
Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Lt. Butch Arnoldi said interest in participating was still high despite the challenges. "Everybody still wanted to do it," he said. "We wanted to maintain that social distancing."
They also did not want to attract any crowds, but supporters were waving at every turn.
The turnout of runners included 26 from the Sheriff's office, 17 from the District Attorney's office, eight from UC Santa Barbara police, eight from Santa Barbara police, six from County Probation and three from the California Highway Patrol.
Law enforcement vehicles were guiding the runners and serving as escorts.
In the past, there have been many fundraisers including the Tip-a-Cop dinners and luncheons, but those have been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The same goes for the final event, the Special Olympics games, which normally would take place at Cal State Long Beach. That too was called off.
Thursday's run went from the Gaviota Coast to the county line in Carpinteria.
U.C. Santa Barbara police officer Victoria Saunders ran the leg by the Camino Real Shopping center. "It was awesome," she said after her handoff. "It was different because of COVID restrictions to keep everyone safe but still being able to do the run."
The runners went by many of their headquarters and substations with the torch and a special olympics flag.
Along the way they received a red, white and blue flag waving sign of support down Calle Real from the staff of the Ramada by Wyndham. It was backed up by horn honking and cheers.
"I think the community of Santa Barbara really knows we do this every year. I've seen that growing up and this is the first time I've been able to do it. My dad did it for years. He was in law enforcement too," said Saunders.
It was a well-timed out course with each of the runners going about a half a mile to just over a mile before they handed off the torch to another fresh set of legs.
Some of the runners had co-workers and children joining in on different segments.
"We had from November 1 to November 14 to do this virtual torch run and decided to do it like we've always done," Arnoldi said. "We made it work. This was the best year as far as runners."
The route also took them right through the new State Street promenade with a few side steps to get around barricades and outside dining areas.
For more information and to make a donation online, visit the Special Olympics Torch Run website.