MUSCATINE, Iowa-With a summer full of competitions on the horizon, Special Olympics Muscatine welcomes the support of the Muscatine County Sheriff’s Office’s annual Torch Ride. This year, the Torch Ride brought in $14,582 by ride day, May 9, a record far beyond anything ever raised before.
Now in its 21st year, the Torch Ride has long given the Sheriff’s Office a way to connect with the community and support Special Olympics’ athletes across a wide range of sports. Though organizer Wilfredo “Willy” Leza has always gotten a good response from businesses interested in sponsoring it and from donations to collection jars around town, he has never seen so much community support before. “My goal was $10 thousand, so anything extra was a bonus and a plus,” he said. “Every year, my donors always surprise me.” Leza specifically thanked El Olmito, Great River Tire and Service, the Muscatine Family Restaurant, Salvatore’s, and Tee’s for stepping up to the platinum level of sponsorship this year.
To change things up for this year’s Torch Ride, both bicyclists and runners completed a 12 mile course, which started at the Muscatine Community Y, traveled down to the riverfront bike trail, up to University Drive, and then back down to Kent-Stein Park before looping back around on Houser Street and Fulliam Avenue to return to the Y. Sheriff Quinn Reiss shared that he and several others training to run in the Chicago Marathon this year saw it as the perfect opportunity to continue practicing and also support a great cause.
Along with members of the Sheriff’s Department, a number of Special Olympics’ athletes participated in this year’s Torch Ride as well. Mindy Cole, who competes in softball, soccer, and track, has participated in the Torch Ride for the past five years. An event she looks forward to each May, she shared: “I like it because I like riding in it. I want to do it every year.”
Eric SaintClair, a special Olympics Athlete who has competed in just about every sport the organization offers and who will attend the USA Games this June to compete in flag football, also considers the ride a highlight of the spring. “I like it,” he commented as he prepared to leave for the ride.
The first women’s swimmer from Muscatine to compete in the 100 meter individual medley at the State Summer Games in Ames, Nicole Ashbaugh, who also competes in bocce, has always loved doing the Torch Ride, as it allows her to, “go for longer runs and push myself more.” Ashbaugh has participated in the last four Torch Rides and plans to keep riding in the future.
Though this year’s Torch Ride has wrapped up and all runners and riders have enjoyed a celebratory lunch courtesy of a Guy & a Grill, people who would like to donate to support Special Olympics of Muscatine may still do so. Leza will soon make order forms for Torch Ride t-shirts available through both the Muscatine County Sheriff’s Office and the Special Olympics Muscatine Facebook pages.