Published: May 01, 2010 4:05 AM EDT

CHARLOTTE COUNTY, Fla. - Each year, more than 3,000 officers carry a burning torch on a 1500-mile relay through more than 60 counties in Florida. Friday night, Charlotte County law enforcement picked up 10 of those miles in their annual torch run for the Special Olympics.

“It's an emotional experience,” Trooper Ed Pope said. It really is. Having the opportunity to meet some of these athletes is touching, inspiring, it's a day to focus on them and their accomplishments.”

The money raised helps those athletes compete. “It's about being in unison. That's the whole message out here today,” Sgt. Bill Gorman of the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office said through the megaphone.

Once the “Flame of Hope” was lit, runners pounded the pavement from the Port Charlotte Publix, down U.S. 41, crossing the finish line at the Laishley Crab House. Because of the incredible effort they've put into raising money, several Charlotte County officers will get to run the final leg of the relay into the Olympic stadium in Orlando and award medals to the athletes at the Special Olympics next month.

“That's going to be an incredible, incredible feeling, and that's what we are looking forward to,” Gorman said.