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Jeff Cook, World Games Final Leg: Days 11 & 12

Jeff Cook, a patrol supervisor with the O’Fallon Police Dept., was selected as Missouri’s representative for the 2015 Special Olympics World Games Law Enforcement Torch Run Final Leg. Cook will be providing updates on his adventures in Los Angeles as part of the Final Leg.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015
July 22 at ABCUp at 4:30 this morning and headed to ABC 7 – LA Studio.
We did several live shots and a few interviews were filmed for later.

Host City – Burbank
Team Zimbabwe
Team Botswana
FANtastic celebration to run into. The speeches were great by Josh and Azeem. The energy from the athletes was really needed this morning. It was an early day and this was the spark we needed.

El Cañada Flintridge
The weather has stayed a little cloudy today and there have been no complaints. We got our fill of sun running the beaches yesterday. This was a very nice community who proudly accepted the Flame of Hope.

July 22 - BurbankNigel and Bruce Felton shared their stories for the crowd. Nigel did a great job again, he rolled up his speech and spoke from the heart again. It was moving.

Beautiful town with a great downtown area. The city hosted a great event and is actually a host city for Team Singapore, Team Tanzania and Team Namibia.

Thursday, July 23
We wrapped up the day with our last two cities and my second speech, accompanied by Dale Smit. It was a humid run in to a great local crowd at both locations. Dale and I spread the word of awareness at Arcadia and Joshua and Russell carried the Torch in Glendale. It is exciting to see so many athletes at these events as we draw closer to the games.

The ride on horse training and therapy program hosted us this morning with a great welcome and light breakfast.

The long days, weather and schedule are slowing a few folks down. We are keeping our spirits and energy up when it’s time to run though. We have to treat each one like it was the first one to motivate the communities and do the job we are here for!

(You know it from Karate Kid)
This stop brought us to one of the coolest entertainment sessions yet. A gentleman has a band that he leads with four special needs guys as his vocal back ups. Great ceremony and turnout. The LETR Final Leg Team keeps knocking down those miles, getting city to city along the way. We’re in the home stretch and the Games are getting so close!

Van Nuys
They did us a solid by making this a shorter run in before serving us lunch. First ceremony where we were provided and instructed to take seats. It was in the shade and under a tent.

Many political officials had aides present and helped celebrate the Torch Run.

July 23Lakeview Terrace
This community had set up quite a vehicle and vendor display in a local park for us. The music was bumping and the cheers were loud from the athletes of Team Hellas (Greece.) Julie Tilbury and Nigel Davis did a great job.

I have become so amazingly proud of Nigel Davis the past two weeks. Nigel has gone from reading right off the script to taking the microphone with a stage presence of an entertainer. He speaks each time now from the heart and tells his story of struggle and success in his life. Nigel could have very easily been just another special needs person left inside at his families home and generally isolated from his community like many had been prior to Special Olympics and the funding that LETR helps provide.

Nigel is not just an athlete, he is also a father. He loves his daughter and her mother, who is also a special needs athlete in Kingston Jamaica. Nigel works at a soap factory that produces the soap for hotel resort guests. He runs or rollerblades/skates to work every day. He is an Olympic speed skater and figure skater. He runs and skates to work to train and he never stops training.

Nigel embodies one of the greatest, all-inclusive, examples of what Special Olympics can do in our world. He is a valuable and productive member of society and lives independently. Nigel, Dale, Joshua and Grazianno have reminded me of the importance of being a Guardian of the Flame.

Studio City
A good run in to a warm reception. Our hosts had great a great Mexican dance performance set up for us and the crowd. They topped it with ice cream and the Minions!

Route 1 / Root 1 had a pretty good day so far. We’ve had a couple setbacks, however, it’s amazing how just a few minutes of camaraderie in a park can really bring the Team spirit up.

Today at lunch, we were given a Frisbee from Panda Express. We had a little time to kill and someone brought up playing a little Frisbee. My stomach finally felt a little better so I figured why not. As soon as I got up, Grazianno hopped up and started heading off the bus too. He was eager to to get it in the grass and horse around and have some fun.
Grazianno has come out of his shell so much since the first day. We have been more protective of him and more aware on when he interacts. He does not speak English, however he understands a little. Claire Hawthorn took the first couple steps to work with him and I made sure that I followed that lead. We worked to to include, acknowledge, encourage and communicate with him when Stefano was and was not around.
It kept paying off each day. Grazianno started to initiate hugs, smile with great pride and actually danced out in the open in the middle of ceremonies. Today’s he actively played Frisbee with us all and was so happy. I was a witness to a great day of inclusion. A great day for Route 1.

July 23 - LAXLAX
We literally shut down the traffic coming through/past the iconic LAX airport sign. Five lanes of traffic for 20 minutes so we could line up everyone for a great shot. These adore the times when police officers like to block traffic, when its for their brothers and sisters and the athletes!

It was followed by a very nice outdoor dinner and DJ at the base of the flag pole and famous lighting structures. The colors have been changed to mimic the colors for these World Games.