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Bicyclists pass the torch for Special Olympics

Six volunteer bikers set out from New Richmond on Wednesday as part of an awareness and fund-raising campaign for Special Olympics.

Police Chief Mark Samelstad, Jason Noel, Craig Yehlik, Gayle Freiseis, Beth Thompson and Kristi Severson rode 56 miles to Bloomer, Wis. as part of the 20th annual Special Olympics Torch Run. Dennis Holtz provided support by following in a chase vehicle.

Hundreds of law enforcement officials participated in the Torch Run across Wisconsin on Wednesday and Thursday.

The torch eventually ended up in Stevens Point, Wis. for the opening ceremonies for the state Special Olympics competition Thursday night. About 2,000 athletes with special needs competed in the games.

Andrea Sullivan, development director for Indianhead Special Olympics, was on hand to see the New Richmond bicyclists off.

"We are delighted you decided to do this," she told the group. "I can't thank you enough."

Sullivan said other law enforcement personnel were participating in the Torch Run in their own special ways. Some people ran, others rode bikes and still others rode horses.

The group took a little more than four hours to complete the ride. The only member to stop short of the goal was Samelstad.

"I made it 49 miles," he said with a laugh. "I got to a hill just before Highway 53 and said, 'no way.' It was a long day."

Once the group arrived in Bloomer, the torch was passed to Chippewa Correctional Facility officers, who carried it to Eau Claire.

The biking group thanked Qwik Trip in New Richmond for providing water for the trip, and for selling t-shirts as a fund raiser for Special Olympics.