Runners help raise money for Special Olympics while enjoying donuts on the Quad


Runners begin the Five-O 5K in Anniversary Plaza on Thursday. The event supported the Special Olympics.

By Jessica Ramos

The possible rainy weather did not stop the University of Illinois Police Department from joining the community in the first Five-O 5K Thursday night to raise money for the Special Olympics Illinois with a coffee and donut run on the Quad.

The event, originally introduced as a “Run from the Cops 5K,” was circulated in an email by the Registered Student Organization office on campus in February. The title and description of the event stirred emotions of students.

An email promoting the event stated, “suspects start stretching and don your best burglar/suspect costume! Yes, the race will begin at 10:00 PM and yes, there will be coffee, donuts and snacks! Do you have what it takes to Run From the Cops?”

Kameron Fry, sophomore in LAS, expressed his concerns regarding the email sent to students.

“Before I read what the 5K was held for, I definitely thought, ‘Well, what’s the attire of a suspect?’ I’m an athlete, so I wear hoodies and sweatpants all the time and at night. I guess I’d definitely look like a suspect,” he said. “For me, I don’t feel like I’m a ‘suspect’ at all — by any means.”

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Officer Beth Visel of the UIPD said the email was sent out prematurely. It was an idea that was discussed amongst officials and circulated to students to seek feedback.

UIPD Deputy Chief Skip Frost stated that the email was originally forwarded to Visel from the University of Wisconsin-Stout. The email, he said, was word-for-word what was sent to students there. However, when sent to the students at the University of Illinois, the email raised concerns. It immediately led to an increased number of phone calls to the police department indicating that the event “perpetuated racial stereotypes,” Frost said.

“Before we had a chance to vet (the idea), it got sent out, basically accidentally,” Frost said. “We had no intention to send that out — we wanted to look it over. We were just trying to give people an idea.”

Frost emphasized that this was not the intention of University safety officials. Officials later met with the Office of Inclusion and Intercultural Relations, other entities on campus and concerned students.

“We did not want people out there in costumes,” Frost said. “We’re not trying to make this into an event where you’re running from the police. The whole idea behind it is — it’s a fundraiser, it’s for a great cause.”

The idea of a 5K held by the UIPD stemmed from their efforts to raise money for the Special Olympics Illinois. It is sponsored by the Law Enforcement Torch Run, which runs year-round. According to Special Olympics, the Torch Run has raised about $28 million dollars over the past 27 years.

“We have over 300 local Special Olympic athletes in Champaign County, with over 600 athletes in Area 8 (which includes Champaign),” Visel said. “The money that we raise directly impacts our local community.”

Frost mentioned that the University might have responded to the initially proposed event differently than other campuses that have held the Run from the Cops 5K because of the diversity on this campus.

“We have a very active and diverse culture on this campus. I think that despite what a lot of people say about the climate, I think we do a pretty good job by having these conversations,” he said. “We’ve been involved with these conversations many, many times. But, if our intent is pure, and it is — then surely, you can forgive us for making mistakes.”

This is the first year that the UIPD has hosted an event like the Five-O 5K. The officers have been involved in efforts to raise money in the past by participating in events like “Cop on Top” where, Frost mentioned, police officers spent the night on the roof of Sam’s Club.

“We hope this event is something that will gain some traction and positive community interaction — police and the community,” he said. “It’s a great cause. We’ve been involved, the department’s been involved (with Special Olympics Illinois) for a long, long time.”

Jessica can be reached at [email protected]