Gander RCMP officer moved by surprise gift following World Special Olympic torch run

Published on June 30, 2017

Constable Nancy Howell received a special gift in the mail recently – a Special Olympics World Winter Games torch from the Law Enforcement Torch Run team she captained to accompany the flame through Austria earlier this year.

©Adam Randell/The Beacon

GANDER, NL – All RCMP Constable Nancy Howell knew was to expect a package in the mail, and it resulted in a gift that will bring back the fondest of memories every time she looks at it. 

After serving as a team leader during the Law Enforcement Torch Run during the 2017 Special Olympic World Winter Games in Austria in March, Howell’s team sought and received permission to present her with a torch for helping provide a “once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

“The one we used was slightly modified to run with, but it’s much the same design and similar to the one used to light the cauldron,” said Howell. “These are typically given to major sponsors, so it’s rare to get one, because they are only given out to a select few.”

Howell’s involvement goes back to the Gander Wings Special Olympics team after moving to the area, first coaching cross-country skiing, and later transitioning into aquatics and Learn to Swim for the club.

She also became involved with the Law Enforcement Torch Run, the largest public awareness and grassroots fundraising organization for Special Olympics globally.  

As a result, Howell was selected to be a law enforcement runner at the 2015 World Special Olympics in Los Angeles in 2015. That same winter, she received an invite to be a team leader for the final leg at the 2017 World Winter Games in Austria.

Howell headed up a team of 10 people. With 10 teams in total, she embarked on a 12-day journey across Austria to accompany the torch and deliver it at the opening ceremonies.

“It was incredible, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, not only meeting the officers who share the same values as you, but to also meet athletes and share their enthusiasm for Special Olympics,” Howell said.

“We were a very close team, bonding very quickly, and a lot of the people I met will be lifelong friends – we still contact each other.” 

In opening the package, Howell said she received quite a surprise, calling it an “amazing gesture.”

“A lot of the places (etched into the torch) have a lot of meaning and memories for me,” she said. “For the team to have done this – it’s an amazing gesture.”

All she needs now is a place to hang it, and Howell already has eyed a spot on her wall to display it.