On any given day, patrol officers from the Leawood Police Department may be called to a variety of situations, whether to aid victims of a car accident, investigate a burglary or gather evidence at the scene of a serious crime. In relying upon these dedicated men and women to protect us, we often overlook the many ways in which they also serve the community by donating their time and talents.
The Leawood Police Department has a strong commitment to Special Olympics Kansas, with many members participating in fundraising events throughout the year.
One of the motivating forces behind the department’s commitment is their teammate, Master Patrol Officer Shawn Farris, who has been volunteering his time and energy to Special Olympics Kansas for the past 15 years.
Officer Farris became involved with the Special Olympics after selling t-shirts and participating in the Law Enforcement Torch Run® (LETR) from Topeka to Kansas City.
At that time, he was the only participant representing the department. Now, the Leawood Police Department boasts numerous participants who volunteer year-round in other events as well.
“One of the primary functions of law enforcement officers during Special Olympics Kansas competition events is to present medals to the athletes,” says Farris. “Doing this helps me understand what Special Olympics is really about, and the importance of what I contribute. The department became involved as a group by participating in the annual Polar Bear Plunge, when a few of us thought it might be something fun to do. Now it has grown into one of our more popular events.”
Two-thirds of the 60-plus officers in the Leawood Police Department are active in multiple events that benefit Special Olympics Kansas and the level of dedication continues to grow.
“I am incredibly proud, not only of the participants, but the entire department,” says Leawood Police Chief John Meier. “Their dedication to this great cause not only helps Special Olympics and the community, but us as well.”
Throughout the years, the department has ramped up it’s involvement by participating in Tip-A-Cop, Cops on Top, Law Enforcement Summer Games, Midnight Run and Run WITH The Law™. All of these programs raise awareness about Special Olympics, and the programs that are funded through them.
“Special Olympics Kansas is grateful for the long-standing support of the Leawood Police Department, which strives to make a difference through its participation in these events,” says Jana Fornelli, Sr. Vice President of Development for Special Olympics Kansas. “They are truly our athletes’ heroes!”
Officer Farris’ involvement extends to positions within the program itself, including serving as Johnson County Coordinator for approximately four years, and being elected to the LETR Executive Council in 2011. This past year he was also presented with two prestigious awards: the Richard La Munyon Hall of Fame Award for extraordinary commitment to helping people with mental disabilities, and the John Carion “Unsung Hero” Award, an international award with only three recipients each year, presented to him in Calgary, Ontario, Canada last November.
Even with these accolades, Officer Farris deflects the spotlight away from him, and is quick to note that the City of Leawood is very supportive of the department’s efforts, making it possible for the officers to participate.
“Being involved in these types of events allows the public to meet us in a different setting and on a different level,” says Farris. “It promotes a positive image of the Leawood Police Department and of officers in general. I’ve also seen the impact that we have had on the athletes and families, and how much they appreciate what we do for them. It’s truly an important part of our job.”
For more information, visit ksso.org, kansastorchrun.org or specialolympics.org.