By: Theresa Gaffney
When Coca-Cola announced its contest to be a Coke Representative at the Special Olympics World Games this year, Cheshire Police Chief Tim Garner knew that he wanted to participate. The contest required a written essay; winners would be chosen based off of their commitment to community involvement and to Special Olympics, as well as their ability to inspire others in their community to become involved. And as those who are close to him know, Chief Garner more than exceeds these qualifications.
The Special Olympics World Games will take place from July 25-August 2 in Los Angeles, California. Garner knows few details about his duty as representative—he does know that one duty will be to act as a “fan in the stands,” supporting the athletes as they compete and participate in other events over the course of the opening weekend.
According to the Coca-Cola website, “fans in the stands” will also volunteer to support venue operations throughout the event. The Coca-Cola Company has contributed to Special Olympics since the organization was founded in 1968.
Unlike many volunteers who are so passionate about Special Olympics, Garner didn’t personally know any athletes before he began volunteering; “I just love working for the kids,” he says.
“They are our future, and it gives me great pride to be able to do things for them no matter what.”
Garner’s first interactions with Special Olympics were back in the 80s, “when the Winter Games were held in the Berkshires,” he notes. Garner assisted in the speed skating competitions at Williams College. He says that he began volunteering because his father was so passionate about it.
“My father was a huge supporter and volunteer of the games,” says Garner “and he inspired me to become involved, along with my wife, as well as other family members. We continued to volunteer for years, even after his passing.”
However, when the Winter Games stopped being held out west where they lived, Garner and his family were unable to continue participating. So five years ago, when the Law Enforcement Torch Run (LETR) Cops on Top event was launched in Pittsfield, Garner was immediately attracted to it. He continues to be involved with the event to this day, and volunteers for many of the LETR 5K races.
For Garner, the takeaway from putting so much time into volunteering is simply to watch the athletes compete. “I am always just so happy to see these athletes give it everything they have, be supportive of others, and always seem to have a smile on their faces.”
Chief Garner has been a member of the Cheshire Police Department since September of 1982, and has been Chief of Police for 18 years. His passion for Special Olympics has spread to his officers, who are “always ready to step up to the plate” in terms of any fundraising or volunteer efforts that Chief Garner may need.
7,000 athletes and 3,000 coaches will represent 177 countries at the World Games this summer. According to the Games’ website, it will be the largest sports and humanitarian event anywhere in the world in 2015.
Garner will leave for Los Angeles on July 24, and is looking forward seeing all of the athletes from around the world.