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People run for a variety of reasons, but one Waukesha woman the special cause is what it's all about.

Waukesha Police Specialist Niki Nelson was chosen to be one of 104 Guardians of the Flame to carry the Special Olympics torch through Austria and finally to the opening ceremony on Saturday, March 18.

Nelson ran with the torch during what is called the Final Leg journey, but the journey actually began some time earlier.

“Niki was chosen by Special Olympics Wisconsin after a very selective process in which law enforcement personnel from around the state applied for the honor of serving as a Final Leg Runner,” said Tommy Jamie, communications strategist with Special Olympics Wisconsin.

LETR of the law

Guardians of the Flame are Law Enforcement Torch Run (LETR) runners who make sure that the Flame of Hope gets delivered to the Opening Ceremony. But even more significantly, LETR participants are also involved in supporting and raising funds for Special Olympic, Jamie added.

“They are the largest fundraiser and public awareness promoter of Special Olympics,” he said.

While in Austria, Nelson carried the Flame of Hope for one leg of its journey through cities as the torch makes its way to the opening ceremony.

“I’m beyond honored to have been chosen as a Final Leg Runner,” Nelson said in a press release before the event. “I’m partnering with an incredible athlete from South Dakota for the Final Leg and I know that we are going to have a truly unforgettable time trekking through the Austrian countryside to get that Flame of Hope to Schladming.”

During her trip to Austria, Nelson will also participate in the Schladming Splash, the World Winter Game’s version of a polar plunge. Half of the money that she raises for her plunge will go to Special Olympics Wisconsin athletes.

“It’s so important to have law enforcement involved in Special Olympics, because they are such integral parts of the fabric of a community and they by nature are a helping profession,” Jaime said. “So it makes sense that they would help to raise awareness and funds for Special Olympics athletes.”

Special awareness

Nelson serves as chairperson for the LETR for the Wisconsin Professional Police Association. She is also assistant Torch Run director for Wisconsin’s LETR State Council and has served on numerous other committees. Through her hard work, Nelson has helped raise over $30,000 for Special Olympics Wisconsin over her two-decade involvement, according to Special Olympics officials.

“Niki has been an amazing supporter of Special Olympics Wisconsin for nearly 20 years now and I don’t think we could have asked for a better representative to go to Austria on behalf of the LETR,” said Julie Drake, director of development for Special Olympics Wisconsin’s LETR. “She works tirelessly for our athletes and is truly committed to the goals and mission of Special Olympics Wisconsin. She really personifies the spirit of the LETR as well as anyone I know.”

For more information on the 2017 Special Olympics World Winter Games, go onlone to www.austria2017.org/en/.

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