Kansas law officers sweat it out for Special Olympics

They may have been off duty, but the 100 or so law enforcement officers who gathered in Olathe on Saturday were grunting and sweating and lifting till their arms quivered. And all for a worthy cause.

The third annual Kansas Law Enforcement Summer Games attracted competitors from more than a dozen agencies throughout the state to raise money for the Special Olympics.

There were track and field events, a tug of war and an obstacle course.

No Barney Fifes were at the bench press. Competitors were clearing well over 300 pounds.

All the events were held at the Olathe District Activity Center.

Brent DeGroot, a recent recruit to the Johnson County sheriff’s office, was entered in the CrossFit team workout competition, a quick but grueling relay of push-ups, lunges and kettlebell lifts followed by even more push-ups, lunges and lifts.

“I was looking forward to the competition with the least amount of running,” DeGroot said. “I didn’t want to pull anything.”

DeGroot had a personal reason for participating in the games. His wife, Lanette, is a speech pathologist who works with special-needs children at Shawnee Mission Medical Center.

“We think this is a good way to give back,” he said.

But the Special Olympics hold a place in the heart of the entire law enforcement community.

“We’ve had a special bond with the Special Olympics for 30 years, police across the country,” said Kevin Cauley, a captain in the Leawood Police Department and one of the organizers of the Kansas law enforcement games.

Money raised by the Kansas games goes toward the Law Enforcement Torch Run, an international program that raises millions of dollars for the Special Olympics.

The games also give the law officers an opportunity to have some fun, Cauley said.

“We’re out here having a good time,” he said. “It gets us some camaraderie, gets the guys out together.”

And the gals as well.

Diana Mendoza, a sergeant with the Lenexa Police Department, was flushed and sweaty after the five-minute CrossFit competition. Mendoza said she’s used to these workouts. But somehow

“This five minutes was a long five minutes.”

Mendoza takes part in other Special Olympics fundraisers as well, including the January Polar Bear Plunge at Shawnee Mission Park.

“I think athleticism is so important. Everybody, at some time, should be athletic,” she said. “I think the (Special Olympics athletes) give so much — 100 percent. More than some other athletes.”

At the end of the events, it was the Special Olympics athletes who gave the winners their medals.

“That’s a big deal for the officers,” Cauley said.