RIO RANCHO, N.M. (KRQE) – Two Rio Rancho officers are preparing to represent a local cause, halfway around the world. They’re representing New Mexico in the Special Olympics torch run in Russia early next year. The Special Olympics have held a special place in Ben Sanchez’s heart ever since the beginning of his law enforcement career with the Rio Rancho Police Department.

“It makes me very happy to be involved with Special Olympics,” said Sanchez. “The people that I’ve met, the coaches, the parents, and the athletes themselves. The bond that you form with them, and they with us, is something you would never get anywhere else.”

In support of Special Olympics New Mexico, law enforcement across the state holds torch runs, tournaments and fundraisers for the organization. Now, they’ve picked one of their own to represent New Mexico in the International Torch Run for the 2022 Special Olympic games in Kazan, Russia: Brittany Mahnesmith, a detective with RRPD.

“It’s amazing. I was really surprised,” said Mahnesmith. “There’s definitely not a single person, not a single agency coordinator in this state that doesn’t deserve to go anymore or less than I do.”

Mahnesmith has been involved with the Special Olympics for around seven years. Sanchez ran in the Abu Dhabi run in 2019 and will now serve as an advisor as Mahnesmith makes her first international run. This week, they prepared with a local torch run with officers across the state.

“We try really hard, it’s for a good cause, but deep down we’re really competitive so every year we want to beat the amount we raised last year,” said Mahnesmith. “I feel like every year, we’ve done really good at raising the bar and getting more departments involved.”

While New Mexico isn’t sending any athletes this year, Rio Rancho PD says they’re honored to represent the state and country. They’ll even take part in a more extreme version of the Polar Plunge.

“I haven’t started learning the language yet. I better brush up on my Russian,” said Sanchez. “If we raise enough money and get sponsors, both of us will jump into an icy cold lake in Russia in the middle of January to raise awareness for Special Olympics.”

Sanchez says the best part is all the money raised from the plunge and torch run will be brought back home for New Mexico’s Special Olympic athletes. They are also hosting a golf tournament on Aug. 30. You can donate to the personal fundraising pages for Brittany Mahnesmith and Ben Sanchez online.