WINTER HAVEN — Winter Haven Police Department is moving forward with its annual 5K to raise money for Special Olympics on Saturday, despite the cancellation of Special Olympics Florida competitions through March 31 due to the recent coronavirus outbreak in the state.

The event is “rain or shine” with no refunds issued for registered participants who do not attend. Those who cannot attend can pick up their shirt and finisher medal at the police department after the event.

The 5K starts at 8 a.m. at Central Park, located downtown at 4th St. NW. The 1 Mile Walk will begin at 8:05 a.m. Participant packets can be picked up at the Winter Haven Library, 325 Ave. A NW, beginning at 6:30 a.m.

WHPD Sgt. David Keigan said nearly 69 percent of Special Olympics participants live below the national poverty level.

“According to a recent census, the average income for a family of four is $27,750,” he said. “How do you include your son or daughter in a program that costs you money?”

Among the families who have become regulars at the event for about 23 years are Michael and Maria Lopez and their son, 34-year-old Ricky Lopez.

“My son has been competing since he was small,” said Lopez, “in softball, track, field, bowling and basketball.”

The unity of families who come out to support one another in sharing their lives with special needs children is unique.

Keegan notes that the WHPD has been involved in the 5K since 1996 in various forms. But Winter Haven isn't the only department raising money.

Lake Wales Police Department will be holding the Law Enforcement Torch Run's “Tip A Cop” at Bob Evans or Chili's this week to raise money for Special Olympics.

“We have over 2,000 athletes here in Polk County and their ages range from 2 years to 88 years of age,” said Lt. David Black.

The athletes and officers will be at Chili's in Lake Wales on Wednesday and Saturday from 5 to 9 p.m. They will be at Bob Evans in Lake Wales on Friday from 5 to 9 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. For more information, call Black at 678-4233, ext. 277.

All state Special Olympics competitions through March 31 are being canceled, according to Linsey Smith, the state's Special Olympics marketing and communications and operations vice president. Smith said they would reevaluate the rest of the competitions for the year at a later date.

Custom Gold Metal Medals Rack Factory Manufacturers Cheap Price

Kathy Leigh Berkowitz can be reached at kberkowitz@theledger.com or at 863-802-7558. Follow her on Twitter @kberkowitzthel1.

Original content available for non-commercial use under a Creative Commons license, except where noted. The Ledger ~ 300 W. Lime St., Lakeland, FL 33815 ~ Do Not Sell My Personal Information ~ Cookie Policy ~ Do Not Sell My Personal Information ~ Privacy Policy ~ Terms Of Service ~ Your California Privacy Rights / Privacy Policy

Customed Medals, Enamel Medals, Glitter Medals, Medal Hanger - Longyi,https://www.awardsmedal.com/