Before competition begins in June at the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games in Orlando, an elite group of law enforcement officers and Special Olympics athletes will escort the Special Olympics Flame of Hope on a journey across Florida. Law enforcement officers along with Special Olympics athletes will make up the prestigious “Final Leg” team for the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games Law Enforcement Torch Run® (LETR).
Congratulations to LETR Council Member Senior Deputy Michael Zabarsky from the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department on being selected to represent Special Olympics Southern California in the Torch Run Final Leg at the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games!
About Michael Zabarsky
Mike has been an active supporter and contributor to Special Olympics and the Law Enforcement Torch Run for his entire eighteen-year career. Michael is a Senior Deputy with the Ventura County Sheriff Office assigned as a supervisor in the Custody Division. Michael is happily married and his wife, Jozi, volunteers with the local Animal Shelter. He is the Law Enforcement Liaison in Ventura County, on the Regional Leadership Council, and a member of the Southern California Law Enforcement Torch Run Council. He has represented his agency in the United States, Canada, and New Zealand by participating in Tip-A-Cops, Over the Edge, Conferences, 2015 World Summer Games in Los Angeles, and the 2017 New Zealand National Summer Games. Recently, he took part in the 40th Anniversary Inaugural Torch Run in Wichita, Kansas along the original route.
Q & A
Tell us about your involvement with Special Olympics outside of the Torch Run
I am the Law Enforcement Representative for Ventura County; fifteen (15) year member of the Southern California LETR council; member of the Ventura Resource Leadership Council; Over-the-Edge participant (3 times); assist with organizing: Tip-A-Cops, Regional Tournaments, & fundraising; and regularly attend Summer Games.
Tell us about your favorite Torch Run memory
In 2019, Special Olympics athlete Ian Eaton and I visited the Academy Recruits at the Ventura County Regional Training Center to tell them about the organization and the Torch Run. Ian used to take part in the Torch Run but his physical health had declined and he had not participated for several years. I was able to get a large wheelchair donated and we constructed a special handle for three (3) people wide to push the chair. During the Torch Run along the Pacific Coast Highway, Ian was pushed the entire 7.5 mile route by the recruits! Ian was over-the-top excited the entire way and overjoyed to be leading our Torch Run! The Academy recruits decided to donate $3,600 that year and are now a part of our LETR family.
Tell us about your favorite Special Olympics memory
In 2015, we were the Host City for the New Zealand and Saudi Arabia teams. I was the security liaison for the teams during their stay for the World Summer Games in Los Angeles. At the conclusion of the games, the teams were leaving from the Bradley International Terminal to go home. Through law enforcement contacts, I was hidden at the departure gate as the teams arrived. After surprising the New Zealand team, they performed a thunderous Haka, a traditional Māori ceremonial dance, in my honor. Everyone in the terminal stopped and watched this amazing event. It is something I will never forget. My continued friendship with the New Zealand coaches, athletes, and families resulted in being invited to the 2017 New Zealand National Summer Games as a final four Torch Runner, guest speaker, and law enforcement liaison. I have been invited again to attend the games in 2022 (delayed from 2021 due to Covid-19).
What would you consider to be the proudest achievement of your law enforcement career?
I would have to say my three (3+) plus years as a School Resource Officer (SRO). I was responsible for twenty (20) elementary and middle schools with eleven (11,000) students. I designed my own police car as an “ice breaker” with students & parents, created programs for the students, and visited regularly in classrooms & playgrounds. Aside from helping create a safe environment to learn, showing (not just telling) how supportive law enforcement officers are, and resolving conflicts, I was also able to help establish Special Olympics Unified Sports Programs at many of my schools. I believe that children, regardless of their background, growing up together is the strongest bond that can be created and will grow the Special Olympics movement into the future.
How did you get involved with the Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics?
As a brand new Sheriff Deputy in 2003, I was approached by a veteran officer who suggested I take part in a local Tip-A-Cop. I decided to participate and was asked to sell tickets for a Harley Davidson motorcycle give-away during the event. In the span of four (4) hours, I had sold more than a hundred (100) tickets at $20 each. The athletes at the event were so energetic and friendly, I was instantly hooked on what I could do to help further. From then on, I participated in whatever Ventura County Special Olympics was doing: Tip-A-Cops, Torch Run, local tournaments, etc. Our agency liaison at the time saw potential in me and they arranged to send me to the 2004 International Conference in Arlington, Virginia. I eventually became the representative for the Ventura County Sheriff Office, Ventura County area, and finally on the Southern California Law Enforcement Torch Run Council.
Make a Donation
Make a donation to support Team SOSC at the USA Games and local athletes in Ventura County in honor of Michael Zabarsky.