Time – a commodity that is impossible to gain more of, yet, so easily lost. Winston-Salem Chief of Police Catrina Thompson argues that the longevity of life is not measured by time itself, but by what is done with the moments given.
An aficionado for managing the time she does have, Thompson manages a force of nearly 700 employees, not including the members of her own household. Alongside her husband, Spartanburg, South Carolina, Chief of Police Alonzo Thompson, the two continue to raise their children, despite the distance of the state lines between them.
Christopher, their teenage son, spent the majority of his childhood competing as a Special Olympics North Carolina athlete. Now attending high school in South Carolina, he has joined the ranks of Special Olympics South Carolina, competing in athletics.
In working for the Winston-Salem Police Department for 27 years, Thompson does not recall a time that their agency has not been involved with the Law Enforcement Torch Run® for Special Olympics. As a former Winston-Salem Police Department employee, her husband’s career has deep roots in the Special Olympics community as well.
The North Carolina Law Enforcement Torch Run (NC LETR) unites officers, like Thompson, from law enforcement agencies and corrections departments across the state in an effort to raise funds and awareness for SONC. LETR is the largest public awareness vehicle and grassroots fundraiser for Special Olympics. Those involved in NC LETR serve as the guardians of the eternal ‘Flame of Hope’ and dedicate themselves to the purpose of supporting North Carolina’s Special Olympics athletes, who through their involvement in Special Olympics, show the community the true meaning of sport and that there are no limits to human potential.
Through NC LETR, Thompson has exerted her fervor for Special Olympics in many capacities. A board member for the North Carolina Association of Chiefs of Police (NCACP) and SONC, Thompson acts as a vocal representative for both organizations.
“When you find an organization, like SONC, whose commitment is to bring out the greatest mind, body and soul in your child, I don’t understand how you can’t want to be a part of it,” said Thompson.
At the NCACP Annual Conference in Cherokee, North Carolina, Thompson presents on behalf of SONC in an effort to recruit new chiefs and agencies. The purpose being not to solicit membership, but to educate attendees and pair new agencies that have a long-standing history with SONC, resembling a peer mentorship program.
For those agencies and officers who have already caught the Special Olympics fever in working with SONC’s nearly 40,000 athletes, the impact has been significant. Thompson’s community resources department focuses on recruitment for NC LETR, one of those department members being Officer Claudia Morgan of the Winston-Salem Police Department and member of the NC LETR Council.
“Claudia is a real work horse,” said Thompson. “Although she does not have a child with special needs by birth, she will tell you that she has 40,000. To see the work that she puts into Special Olympics and NC LETR is heartwarming.”
With over 400 Winston-Salem Police Department officers involved in NC LETR, the effect both organizations have had on each other is immeasurable.
“Having a child with special needs, for me, is a blessing,” said Thompson. “We have learned so much from Christopher, it really makes you stop and appreciate what is truly important in life. To know that there are so many people out there that are my colleagues supporting people, like my son, and making them feel included is incredible.”
One day, Thompson aims for the Winston-Salem Police Department to be the top fundraising agency for LETR in the state. Her steps to making that happen include increasing agency involvement and differentiating ways for officers to participate in NC LETR. A lesson she learned from her son, she prioritizes the mission of SONC over her competitive drive to be at the top.
“Our kids really help us understand what is important in life,” said Thompson. “Last year, when Christopher was running, he took off and he was, by far, way ahead of anyone else. Everyone was in the background cheering and he gets less than a quarter around the track before he stops. He walked as two of his peers passed him. He started in first place and ended up with a third-place medal. We are so competitive by nature and think that first place is always so important, but he was just as happy as he could be.”
Her ambitions and long-term goals for her agency’s involvement in NC LETR are made possible by simply living in the present.
“There are things that are important in life that we miss or take for granted,” said Thompson. “For me, it is time. Time is the most valuable commodity that I have, because I do not know how much of it I have. It means a lot to spend it doing what I love and enjoy through SONC.”