The Mount Pleasant Police Department named Maj. Stan Gragg deputy chief last week. The honor came just as he returned home from the Law Enforcement Torch Run Final Leg benefiting Special Olympics.
Mount Pleasant Police Chief Carl Ritchie said Gragg’s dedication to the Special Olympics and his passion for the athletes is contagious and has spread throughout the department.
Stan Gragg came to the Mount Pleasant Police Department from the North Charleston Police Department in 1989. He has had a well-rounded career working in and supervising divisions ranging from patrol, narcotics and the DEA Task Force to traffic patrol and special ops. He’s also overseen administrative support and daily operations.
The position of deputy chief is a reclassification of the major’s position. Gragg will continue be over the daily operations of the department.
And while this promotion means a great deal to Gragg, as more important to him, he said, was the opportunity to represent South Carolina in the Special Olympics by carrying the Flame of Hope in the Law Enforcement Torch Run (LETR).
Gragg got involved with Special Olympics and the LETR several years ago when a friend asked him if he would like to participate in the Midwinter Games Torch Run.
This run is a group-run of about four miles with Law Enforcement Officers carrying the Flame of Hope into the start of the Mid-Winter Games, he explained.
Gragg agreed, not really knowing what to expect. “But once we entered the gymnasium to the cheers of the athletes and families, I was transformed. After the cauldron was lit, the officers filtered back out into the lobby area where we were enjoying some refreshments and I started discussing resurrecting the run which had formally been done from the beach up to the capitol,” said Gragg.
That run had been ran years prior and had went by the wayside about 15 years ago as interest had waned.
“I may have taken advantage of their emotional high as I got agreement with most of the officers. The discussion turned to ‘well we should run half of it and stop at a hotel and finish the next day,’ but I wanted to do it straight through. Although hesitant they reluctantly agreed, not realizing what or who they were agreeing to. See, I am relentless when I undertake a task,” said Gragg.
Gragg reached out to a great supporter of Special Olympics, a Hall of Fame Torch Runner, and even more importantly, someone he has considered his friend, Captain Joe Pellici of the Richland County Sheriff’s Office.
“He gave me some sage advice which was, ‘no matter what you do, if you put in sweat equity, the community will get behind you and will support your cause.’ So that is how the Coast to the Capital began,” he said.
The Coast to the Capital Run starts at the beach of Sullivan’s Island at 11 a.m. on Thursday. Participants run through the night and complete the 128-mile journey early Friday morning where participants hold a press conference and then a 7.5-mile group run from the capital to Fort Jackson into the start of the Summer Games, which is South Carolina’s largest event.
That first year, 12 officers participated.
“I knew I had them hooked when we made the final turn toward the cauldron with the athletes, their families and friends cheering them on,” Gragg said. “You could see it in their eyes. They understood what it is all about.”
Gragg said that although he has served in law enforcement for 26 years, the last few years being involved with Special Olympics have been his most rewarding. “From lighting of the cauldron at the South Carolina Mid-Winter Games to this pinnacle which is the Final Leg,” said Gragg. “Throughout my career I have been afforded the opportunity to travel the country training officers in a variety of topics, but the message has been consistently the same; we have an ethical and moral obligation to make our communities better and to continue to add value every day and the moment we can no longer do that then we need to hang up our badge and gun. And until we can recognize inclusion and engagement for all members of our community we all have work to do.”
Gragg said the experience in New York and New Jersey was a roller coaster of an experience. An officer from every state was represented. The kick off started with “Fox and Friends” in Times Square along with major sponsor Toys R Us. The three teams broke off in three different directions: North Jersey, South Jersey and Philly.
There were dozens of ceremonial appearances along the routes, such as a stop in Carlo’s Bakery, home of the Cake Boss.
The teams ran legs across their portions of the northern states while some of the Special Olympics athlete were flown in on donated private jets.
After greeting the arriving athletes at the airfield and a recognition luncheon and dinner, Sunday arrived.
The law enforcement teams practiced for the opening ceremonies, which featured 3,200 athletes and 1,000 coaches and supporters. When the big day came, there were 15,000 spectators at the Prudential Center, home of the New Jersey Devils. It was a sold-out crowd.
South Carolina featured one of the largest number of contingents, “which speaks volumes about the South Carolina Special Olympics program,” Gragg said.
Gragg said the opening ceremony was the pinnacle of his career and quite moving.
The games will be aired on June 30 on Fox Sports.
Local athletes who participated included Tate Mikell, Kylie Mcfarland and Trampus Hoover.