“Not only are we law enforcement officers, but we are human beings as well and we are out here for our fellow human beings. We are going to do whatever we can to assist them in life, and if that’s through Special Olympics North Carolina, then, hey, get on board and do whatever you can.”
These are the words of Deputy Tiffany Hill of the Union County Sheriff’s Office in Monroe, North Carolina. After joining the North Carolina Law Enforcement Torch Run® (NC LETR) for Special Olympics in 2020, Hill was appointed to the NC LETR Council in 2021. As the largest year-round public awareness and grass-roots fundraising campaign for Special Olympics, the Council is responsible for the management and implementation of LETR activities throughout the state of North Carolina. Law enforcement officers unite to champion acceptance and promote inclusion for people with intellectual disabilities, wherever they live.
In her nine years with the sheriff’s office, she has spent the past three as a school resource officer at Fairview Elementary School and Porter Ridge Elementary School. Integrating her career with her personal drive to better her community, Hill walks the schools’ hallways, assured she is in the right place.
“This is where I wanted to be, I love doing community service, I love helping the kids,” said Hill. “So, I’m definitely doing what I love to do right now.”
Before her introduction to Special Olympics or the NC LETR, Hill competed in track and field in high school and college. After graduation, she coached at a local high school, where she was introduced to an athlete with Down syndrome, who was training in shot put and the disc throw. Solidifying an already well-established dedication to working with individuals with intellectual disabilities, also having a cousin with Down syndrome, Hill was steps ahead in the fight for inclusion.
“I have always had a special place in my heart for Special Olympics,” said Hill. “I have a cousin who is 17 with Down syndrome. Her name is Andrea and she is a diva, she is amazing and you can’t tell her anything. She was raised just like we were. Her momma told her that you’re no different than anyone else, you’re going to get treated just like everybody else. If you met her, you’d see she’s a powerhouse. That’s where a big part of my heart for Special Olympics and special needs, period, comes from.”
When Hill started working in the school system in 2019, a physical education teacher approached her before a local Spring Games and asked if she knew about the NC LETR, which she did not. That year, Hill recruited a group of officers to attend a Spring Games event to hand out medals. Fast forward, Hill attended the Special Olympics 2020 NC LETR Conference in Atlantic Beach, where she learned just how powerful taking part in this movement could be.
“It just opened my heart even more and I wanted to get out there and do whatever I could, especially being in the position that I am in with community resources, to do things,” explained Hill.
Now a member of the NC LETR Council, Hill activates involvement statewide in recruiting agencies to take part in this year’s Torch Run Relay, which carries the Flame of Hope across the state from five different points in May, culminating in the largest awareness campaign for LETR. This demonstration of teamwork is the first of many Hill will see come to fruition in her leadership position.
“The way I was raised and the way I live my life is when something is put in front of me, especially when it is something to help others, I don’t turn it down, because I do not know what God has for me in my life,” said Hill. “To me, the ability to help others is a blessing and I want to be a blessing to as many people as I can.”
Her platform is to simply say “yes” to the chance to make a difference.
“You don’t want to say ‘no’, because you don’t know what type of blessing it is that you are throwing away or how many people you could not impact by saying ‘no,’ compared to the number of people you can impact by saying ‘yes,’” advised Hill.
Last year, Hill experienced firsthand the impact of raising funds for Special Olympics, which makes it possible for North Carolina’s nearly 40,000 athletes to compete free of charge. Attending a fundraiser to ask for donations at a local Dunkin’ Donuts, Hill acknowledged that making a difference does not take much, but means everything to those that difference impacts.
“You should get involved because you have the ability, every day, to do what you love,” remarked Hill. “You don’t worry about how you’re going to go from day to day to accomplish the things that you want to accomplish, because you are able-bodied and are able to do everyday things and you have the ability to make a difference in someone else’s life. So, why not help out with the LETR by helping those that may be a little less able than you, but still are able, with the help of us, by providing them with the funds they need to participate in the activities that they would like to?”
Hill is an advocate, voicing the need for law enforcement officers to visit schools, Exceptional Children (EC) classes or presentation opportunities in order to connect with the individuals with intellectual disabilities that they serve. Special Olympics athletes, who are supportive fans of law enforcement officers, ask for the same support and admiration in return.
“I’m just trying to show them that we have more of an influence in others’ lives than we think we do,” said Hill. “Try to make a difference, it doesn’t take much to make a difference, to put a smile on someone’s face, and these athletes would love to see a lot more of us at these events.”
The movement toward inclusion takes an army of many. Unity among law enforcement officers makes a real difference in reaching that goal. In witnessing the direct impact that the NC LETR has on the lives of Special Olympics athletes, Hill says it best, “It’s powerful, y’all.”