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Washington Co. deputy to carry the torch in 2023 Special Olympic World Games

The event will be held in Germany for the first time.

STILLWATER, Minn. — Detective Matt O'Hara has been with the Washington County Sheriff’s Office for 17 years.

He's currently assigned to the Coordinated Response Team, which includes the pairing of law enforcement with an embedded social worker to connect those experiencing mental health crises with critical services to reduce law enforcement contacts. As part of his role, he is a handler to therapy K9 "Rookie" who accompanies him on calls.

“She responds with us, our embedded social worker, and the rest of our team," he said.

When he’s not out in the community, he's taking on another initiative. 

“We’ll be carrying the Flame of Hope around Berlin, Brandenburg, and other parts of Germany," he said.

The Special Olympics World Games are the world's largest inclusive sports event where thousands of athletes compete in 26 sports.

The games will be held from June 17-25, it’ll be the first time Germany will host the games.

To kick off the world summer games, much like the Olympics, there is a ceremonial torch run that takes place starting this week in Athens, Greece. This torch run follows the same principles that the Olympic torch follows, and it will be carried by law enforcement, or "guardians of the flame" from around the world.

“It's very humbling and I’m honored to be selected on behalf of MN and behalf of law enforcement torch runners," he said. "Being one of only 100 in the world selected and 40 in the US, that gives us an amazing opportunity to go – I’m looking forward to it.”

O'Hara has been heavily involved with the Special Olympics for almost 20 years and is the incoming program director for the Minnesota Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics, which is the largest grassroots fundraiser for Special Olympics worldwide.

"My first law enforcement job, I was introduced in 2004," he said. "Since then, I participated every single year, have even been a torch runner or participated in different fundraisers.”

While O'Hara is looking forward to participating, he’s also raising money to help support Special Olympic athletes and is just $1,000 short of his goal.

"All of the donations we collect can go right to the athletes in our community. When we are able to generate funds for special Olympic athletes, we know it’s all-encompassing for everyone we serve," he said.

Continuing a tradition for years to come.

"I love giving back to our athletes and I will remain on the board and continue to do what I do throughout my career," he said.

He says the trip is expected to last eight days and he’ll be flying out this Sunday. 

To donate to Detective O'Hara's fundraiser, visit the link here

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