As New Jersey gears up to host its annual Special Olympics Summer Games in June, one group of law enforcement officers is again bringing attention, awareness and funding to the athletes in their own unique way.

Photo courtesy of Peter Femia

Peter Femia, who began as a corrections officer at the Union County Jail in 1994, has been in on the ground floor of his colleagues' Heroes for Heroes movement since its inception. He and others from the jail participate in the yearly Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics while dressed in superhero costumes.

That idea sprang from officers brainstorming ways to raise more awareness, get more people involved and bring in more money for the Special Olympics.

"Sure enough, we went out, we bought a few costumes, and we started running, yearly, dressed up as different superheroes," Femia said, "and it started to get a lot of attention."

As people began to join the cause — about 20 from Femia's department participate every year — the costumes became more elaborate. One challenge is that most are made for climate-controlled environments like Halloween parties, not running long distances outdoors in high temperatures.

But for Femia, who dresses up as Batman, and the others, the cause is well worth any potential lack of comfort.

"If you really look at the athletes who participate in the Special Olympics, their stories and what they achieve, it is incredibly inspirational to watch that," he said. "To us, they are heroes."

In advance of the Special Olympics Summer Games coming to The College of New Jersey in Ewing from June 10-12, Femia's Heroes for Heroes group is making an appearance, in costume, at Frenchy's Bar & Grill in Roselle Park on Friday, May 27. There is no cover charge and food has been donated for the event, meaning attendees are asked only to make a donation to the Special Olympics.

"Come and have a drink with Batman, or sit down and have a picture taken with Spider-Man, or whatever you like," Femia said.

To find out more about the Torch Run, go to letr-council.org. And for more information about Special Olympics New Jersey, visit sonj.org.

Sign up for the WPG Talk Radio 104.1 Newsletter

Get South Jersey news and information e-mailed to you every week.