Walmart to host Special Olympics fundraiser

Those with intellectual disabilities have the same drive to compete as everyone else. And since 1968, the Special Olympics have been providing them an outlet for that drive.

Local law enforcement officials, including those from the Marshalltown Police Department, Iowa State Patrol and Marshall County Sheriff’s Office, will hold their annual fundraiser at Walmart this weekend.

The fundraiser sees police turn out with Special Olympians to raise money that provides training for the more than 11,000 Iowans with intellectual disabilities who compete in the state’s Special Olympics each year.

Kris Weitzell, law enforcement coordinator for the fundraiser, said the public donates more than $5,000 each year.

“The Marshalltown area has been very supportive of this event,” she said. “It’s a lot of fun.”

All the money goes directly to the athletes, Weitzell said. This year marks the fifth year Walmart has hosted the fundraiser. Police and athletes will be at the store’s entrances, interacting with the public and collecting donations from those who wish to contribute.

Despite the absence of torches and running, organizers call the fundraiser the Law Enforcement Torch Run. They used to call it Cop on Top because law enforcement officials stood on the building’s roof, and later on scaffolding, to draw the attention of passersby. However, Weitzell said police have since moved to the ground, which provides a better opportunity to interact with people entering and exiting the store.

“It’s a good cause, and it’s a good image for law enforcement,” said Deputy Ben Veren, a sheriff’s deputy that spearheads the effort and will be at the Walmart doors this weekend along with his wife Officer Casee Veren, with the Marshalltown Police Department.

Many members of the public don’t likely have an opportunity to interact with police in a casual setting, he said. The event helps strengthen community ties. Citizens can chat with police. Kids can sit in squad cars.

“It’s not just a nameless face,” Veren said.

Police and athletes will be at the Walmart entrances from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday.

Lindsay Eastin, Torch Run coordinator with the Special Olympics, said the event helps the public see police in a different light while showing the officers and deputies are committed to intellectually disabled athletes.

“All the officers spending time and raising that money is helping those athletes,” she said.