Kevin and Lori Torgerson share a passion for inclusion and have found a home with Special Olympics Minnesota, volunteering in a number of different roles over the past several decades. They are as committed to empowering Special Olympics athletes in the Rochester, Minnesota, area as they are to each other, and the friendships they have made through their involvement have been life-changing to say the least.

The pair first got connected to Special Olympics Minnesota in 1985 when Kevin was working for the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office. Kevin was introduced to the world of Special Olympics through the Law Enforcement Torch Run (LETR), participating in a 5K with fellow officers to raise funds and awareness for Special Olympics Minnesota.

When Kevin transferred to Olmsted County for work, Special Olympics opportunities followed. Kevin heard that law enforcement volunteers were needed at a SOMN state competition in Forest Lake, and he jumped at the opportunity. He describes the energy at that first competition as “electric,” and knew he was going to be a part of the inclusion revolution for the long haul. The Torgersons have been instrumental in hosting some of the most successful Law Enforcement Torch Fun Final Leg runs in the state.

“We do things together,” says Kevin. “Even though it all began through my job, Lori has been a part of the journey since day one.”

As Kevin’s involvement with the Law Enforcement Torch Run grew bigger—including joining the LETR Executive Council for 20+ years and serving on the Special Olympics Minnesota Board of Director for 3 years—Lori essentially became support staff for their running crew, helping to plan the annual fundraising event, assist athletes and law enforcement day of, and cheer everyone on from the sidelines. Over the years, Lori’s own involvement with Special Olympics Minnesota grew, and she eventually became Co-Head of Delegation for the Rochester Flyers, one of the biggest delegations in the state with over 300 registered athletes.

“We have got to know so many great people through Special Olympics over the years,” says Lori. “Generally, when we see a role that needs filling, Kevin and I say, ‘Why not! Let’s do it.’”

Kevin and Lori both served as coaches for the Rochester Flyers for close to 20 years. In addition to coaching bocce and bowling, the Torgersons were well known for their role on the track. They were a dynamic duo at regional and state competitions as co-head coaches for the Flyers track and field team.

“The Torgersons have been instrumental in spreading our mission in southern Minnesota as well as in the Minnesota law enforcement community,” says Bill Fish, Chief Development Officer at Special Olympics Minnesota. “They have made a tremendous impact on our organization throughout the years, and we are incredibly grateful.”

Connection is at the core of Kevin and Lori’s involvement with Special Olympics Minnesota. Though she has retired from her role as Head of Delegation, Lori is still affectionately known as “Mom” to many people on the Rochester Flyers. Kevin and Lori have standing dinner dates with athletes they have coached over the years. Their son even met his wife by volunteering at the Polar Plunge! In addition to making a positive impact on the lives of so many, their lives have been changed for the better as well.

Kevin and Lori speak highly of each other—an important quality in a husband-and-wife duo, but even more important in their role as coaches and mentors to Special Olympics athletes.

“Kevin has a lot to do with the Flyers’ recognition down here,” says Lori with a smile. “Everyone in the Rochester area knows about Special Olympics, and I think he really uses his platform for good.”

“I mean, I will take any opportunity I have to tell other law enforcement agencies to get involved with Special Olympics Minnesota,” says Kevin. “The more we can do to shine a bright light on all that Special Olympics does, the better. To me, agencies are missing the boat if they aren’t involved.”

Talking about the Torgersons’ involvement with Special Olympics Minnesota and the Law Enforcement Torch Run wouldn’t be complete without mentioning their involvement with the Rochester Polar Plunge.

The Rochester Plunge has raised nearly $4 million in its 22-year history. It’s consistently one of the largest Polar Plunge events in the state. In fact, in 2023, 954 Plungers raised over $288,000 for Special Olympics Minnesota.

“The success of the Rochester Plunge wouldn’t be possible without Kevin, the Olmsted County Sheriff’s Office and the Rochester Flyers,” says Kean Corkery, Director of Special Events at Special Olympics Minnesota. “Kevin does a fantastic job spreading the word as an ambassador for our organization and getting everyone on board for the event.”

As they reflected on some of their favorite memories in honor of Special Olympics Minnesota’s 50th anniversary, the Torgersons were even more energized by looking forward to the next 50 years. Kevin and Lori have some big hopes for the inclusion revolution. At the top of their list are more partnerships with like-minded organizations, state-of-the-art facilities for athletes to train and compete in, and total community buy-in across the state.

“Special Olympics is such a great vehicle for creating more inclusive communities,” says Kevin. “Not only does it help to fill a big gap in recreation for people with intellectual disabilities, but everyone benefits from it. I want to see more opportunities in every city.”

When asked what they want the world to know about Special Olympics, Kevin and Lori agreed that it’s all about the people that make up the Special Olympics community.

“It’s all about friendships,” says Kevin. “When you attend a Special Olympics event and allow yourself to participate, you will feel unconditional love and acceptance. I’ve made incredible friendships in my time with SOMN.”

Lori wholeheartedly agrees. “I agree, it’s truly my happy place. Being at a Special Olympics event never fails to put a smile on my face. It has made my life fuller.”

Kevin and Lori are champions of inclusion! We thank them for their dedication to the Inclusion Revolution, and we can’t wait to see all that they bring to our organization in the next 50 years.

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Learn more about the Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics Minnesota