Dorothy Diehl (right) pictured with Special Olympics athlete Jenny Hill at the Law Enforcement Torch Run in 2017 (Submitted).
Ever since Dorothy Diehl took over as the Community Service Officer at the Keizer Police Department, she wanted to get the department involved in a Special Olympics event that took place in Keizer.
Two-and-a-half years later, that goal has become a reality.
On Saturday, July 27, the KPD will be hosting their first ever 5K foot pursuit, a community run/walk event in pursuit of funding and awareness for the Special Olympics of Marion County.
The event will take place at Keizer Rapids Park from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Diehl started planning this event last summer after having a conversation with Lt. Andrew Copeland.
“We wanted to find something that we could do here in Keizer and have our community participate with us and see their police officers supporting the Special Olympics in Keizer,” Diehl said.
“We have a really strong community here that has a lot of support for the police department and we imagine, a lot of support for the Special Olympics too, if we can get people to learn more about it.”
Diehl wants this event to have a community picnic type of vibe, which is why KFD will also have a free hot dog lunch for the first 300 people in attendance, as well as face painting, rock painting and an inflatable obstacle course.
While she has done much of the heavy lifting, Diehl has also gotten some help from generous volunteers in the community, as well as more than 30 sponsors — with most of then coming from Keizer businesses.
“It was remarkably easy to get folks to volunteer,” Diehl said. “They just started showing up and they have been committed the whole time. It has really been incredible. Getting people here was no problem at all.”
While both KPD and Keizer Fire District will have a strong presence at the race, it was extremely important for Diehl to have different vendor booths catered towards people with special needs.
Shangri-La — an organization serving individuals with disabilities and families with disabilities — and Marion County Intellectual and Developmental Disability Services — who provides case management, intake, eligibility determination and referrals for in home support, residential services and employment — will be on-hand to provide information on the types of services that they offer.
“We're hoping that families who might have young children with disabilities might be curious about resources and programs that they could get their children involved in,” Diehl said. “Being a new parent is scary anyway, but finding out that your child might have unique challenges that not all the other parents you know are going to be dealing with can be very overwhelming. So for them to go sit in the bleachers at a Special Olympics event with parents who are going through the same challenges, that is extremely valuable.”
“It helps them know how they can be the best advocate for their child, so we're hoping to carry that on by having some of these resources out there.”
There will also be a Special Olympics booth, along with athletes at every intersection of the course to cheer on runners.
Over the course of this process, Diehl and other members of the KPD have had the privilege of meeting and interacting with many Special Olympics athletes from Oregon.
“It's been extremely rewarding for me and pretty eye-opening,” Diehl said. “When you start meeting the athletes and hearing about all of the training they do and all of the sports that are available and knowing what it means to them. It's a huge part of their lives.”
Copeland added: “The more we interact with people involved with Special Olympics, the more we realize that we want to get more involved. To be able to host an event that will hopefully bring some substantial funds to the Special Olympics in Marion County is pretty cool.”
One particular athlete that has been a huge help in planning the 5K is Jenny Hill, who has been friends with Diehl for a few years.
Hill has been a part of Special Olympics for over 20 years and has competed in a several sports and has even goten t to compete in the world games as a gymnast.
“It's given me the opportunity to meet new people, stay fit and have a lot of fun experiences,” Hill said of the Special Olympics.
When she found out that the KFD wanted to do something for Special Olympics in Marion County, she was thrilled and wanted to help in any way that she could.
“When they said they wanted to put it on, it was a big deal for us,” Hill said. “It's been a huge blessing.”
One of the other big motivations for Diehl was the fact that Special Olympic Oregon has gone through some severe financial struggles over the last couple years — they canceled the 2018 summer and fall games, as well as the winter games in 2019.
“To know the past couple years, the programs have been cut pretty drastically and they have missed out on a lot of things that they have been training for and looking forward to,” Diehl said. “That's pretty heartbreaking to see that, so part of what we want this event to accomplish is to show them that our community supports them. It's not just about raising some money to actually fund the programs. A huge part of it is just showing that we're here for them, even when they don't having the funding to do all that they want to do.”
You can register, volunteer or support at runsignup.com/Race/OR/Keizer/PD. For more information, email [email protected] or find KPD on Facebook.