It was March of 2015 when Greensburg, Indiana Police Chief Brendan Bridges attended the Chief School at the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy and heard the Special Olympics Indiana LETR Liaison speak that he was inspired to get involved with Special Olympics. Growing up, his brother and sister volunteered with Special Olympics at Summer Games in Terre Haute, through school. After hearing his siblings’ stories and excitement from their experience with Special Olympics, he knew it was a worthy cause. “I’ve always known that Special Olympics to be a very good organization in what they do for the athletes throughout the state,” stated Chief Bridges. Needless to say, once he was invited to get involved as an officer, Chief Bridges went all in!
He has been able to jump right in, getting involved with his area’s local athletes. “The athletes come up and give you hugs, high fives,” Chief Bridges said. “They pretty much make you forget about all the problems that you have back home or what people think about law enforcement and make you forget about the little things and make you appreciate everything else.” What he’s learned since being involved with Special Olympics is that until you’re in you don’t know Special Olympics. “The athletes are just like any other athlete out there. It is their sport and they’re going to be serious about it while giving 100%. They’re excited if they win and letdown if they lose.” Chief Bridges knows he will have many movements that stay with him as a part of the LETR program but fondly recalls his 1st trip to Summer Games when they brought the torch in to the track and he was invited, as a new Chief, to light the cauldron with the athletes. Then he went on to hand out medals. “They’re just like anybody else but you have to get involved to see that” he said, “They’re just a great group of athletes to be around and really appreciate what you do.”
“Once you get involved, you’re hooked.” Chief Bridges’s advice to other police chiefs or officers considering bringing Special Olympics to their departments is that you will have no regrets. “If anything, you’ll wish that you have done it sooner. It’s something you can’t explain; it’s something you have to experience.” The LETR program positively impacted his department through a transitional year and seemed to come just at the right time.
The department came together for their first Tip-A-Cop fundraiser last year and this year the department will get even more involved with Special Olympics. Chief Bridges has developed the support of his department, family, and community through the agency events and his first Polar Plunge in 2016.
The Chief has also become a member of the Recruiting Committee to show new officers the joy that Special Olympics Indiana can bring to their departments. He was even able to re-visit ILEA for the Chief’s School in 2016 to encourage the new Chiefs to join the LETR program like he did in their seats. He is looking forward to bringing his department to the 2016 game, up next in June, to support the athletes. “These are exciting times for the athletes,” His philosophy is pretty clear, “Anything we can do for them.”