It is a labor of love, being part of the Law Enforcement Torch Run® for Special Olympics North Carolina (NC LETR). Retired Guilford County Sheriff’s Office Detective David Keith “DK” Jones and Special Olympics Guilford County athlete Dustin Edmondson have shared in that labor since Edmondson was young. A recent graduate of Western Carolina University, Edmondson now serves as an athlete ambassador for the NC LETR State Council alongside Jones as the executive council co-coordinator. They share a sense of dedication, a sense of pride in their efforts. In 2021, those efforts were honorably recognized.
Jones was honored as a finalist for induction to the international Richard LaMunyon Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics Hall of Fame, which recognizes individuals who have demonstrated and sustained contribution to the Torch Run and Special Olympics at the local, national and international levels. For 23 years, Jones has supported the NC LETR through various fundraising initiatives, including Tip-A-Cop®, Cops on Top® and Polar Plunge® events. What started as a commitment to fundraising through the Guilford County Sheriff’s Office Polar Plunges and golf tournaments quickly expanded statewide.
While employed with the Guilford County Sheriff’s Office, Jones helped to fundraise over $475,000, serving as the agency’s Torch Run coordinator from 2008 until 2013. During his tenure, he was selected to represent North Carolina on the Final Leg Torch Team in the 2011 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Greece. In 2015, he joined the NC LETR State Council as co-director, a position he held until 2018. Since 2015, the NC LETR has raised nearly $6 million in support of SONC with the help of dedicated individuals like Jones.
In 2017, Jones collaborated with law enforcement agencies in Greensboro, High Point and Winston-Salem to initiate the Triad Chill Polar Plunge. Now a fundraising staple for Special Olympics North Carolina (SONC), the Triad Chill Polar Plunge has raised over $300,000 in the past five years. Jones is active in supporting other statewide fundraisers, including Plane Pull® and Over The Edge. Through the years, Jones and Edmondson have plunged together, fundraised together and enjoyed spending time together.
Edmondson, a finalist for the LETR International Executive Council Athlete Award, is an inspiration for law enforcement officers across North Carolina. Edmondson was 8 years old in 2008 when he began participating in Special Olympics, joining the NC LETR movement in 2016 as an athlete ambassador. Known to bring a smile to the faces of the many NC LETR members, he exemplifies how powerful the bond between a Special Olympics athlete and a law enforcement officer can be. He acts as a spokesperson on behalf of Special Olympics as a Special Olympics Youth Global Messenger and as an SONC Global Messenger. Representing SONC, Edmondson attended and presented at Capitol Hill Day in Washington, D.C. to meet with the North Carolina Congressional Delegation.
He is a friend to all, whether they be new NC LETR athlete ambassadors, officers, State Council members, teammates or classmates. Edmondson is gifted with an ability to connect with others, leaving a positive impact on their day or on their life. That impact extends to his fundraising efforts, participating in events including the Triad Chill Polar Plunge and Cops on Top. He is once quoted in saying, “The power of Special Olympics is more than just what happens on the field. It’s about what happens in the community as a whole.”
For Edmondson and Jones, their nominations alone are proof of their success in recruiting supporters of Special Olympics from communities across the state of North Carolina. Regardless of the recognition and accolades, they continue to selflessly give back.