Longtime volunteer earns honor

An Indiana State trooper who works in Bartholomew County has been recognized with the highest honor that Special Olympics Indiana awards to an officer.

Master Trooper Tommy Walker, who has been a trooper with the Indiana State Police for 24 years, has been presented the annual Spirit of Special Olympics Indiana Officer Award.

Walker, 49, has had an association with the sports organization for disabled children and adults that dates back almost as far as his professional career.

It began when the Columbus resident accepted an invitation from a fellow officer to participate in a law enforcement torch run held before the 1994 Special Olympics in Indiana.

“We greeted over 4,000 athletes as they entered the opening ceremonies that evening,” Walker said. “They were fun, bold, courageous and exciting. I have not looked back since.”

By building strong ties between the Indiana State Police and Special Olympics, Walker has been credited with raising more than $42,000 for Special Olympics Indiana over the past 20-plus years, state police spokesman Capt. David Bursten said.

In Columbus, Walker started “Showdown of the Shields,” a weightlifting fundraiser. The event, planned for 10 a.m. Saturday at FairOaks Mall, originated in the early 1990s, and raises about $5,000 annually for Special Olympics Indiana, Bursten said.

“Being committed to Special Olympics athletes has brought purpose to my life,” Walker said.

In addition to the weightlifting fundraiser:

Walker was selected to represent Indiana torch runners for the final leg of the Special Olympics World Summer Games in Raleigh, North Carolina, in 1999.

Four years later, he participated in the final leg of the same run that began in Athens, Greece, and finished in Dublin.

Walker served as a support team member during the 2006 run leading up to the Special Olympics National Games beginning in Chicago and finishing in Ames, Iowa.

Walker became the first law enforcement officer to ever become a member of Team Indiana traveling to the 2014 Special Olympics USA Games as the team’s equipment manager.

“Tommy has been a wonderful ambassador for us,” said Stephanie Manner, manager of community partnerships for Special Olympics Indiana. “Since 1994, Tommy has never stopped running — figuratively or literally. He fully exemplifies the spirit of Special Olympics Indiana.”

Walker, a freelance sports photographer, has donated his time and talents to photograph countless Special Olympics Indiana events, capturing thousands of images of competition and fundraising, Bursten said.

Although the Indianapolis native will be eligible for retirement in December, Walker still runs and lifts weights four times a week during workouts that each last more than an hour.

He plans to continue running torch relays and do additional work for Special Olympics even after he retires, Walker said.

Walker said he believes the physically or mentally challenged athletes represent a life lesson for everyone.

“Be the best ‘you’ that you can be,” Walker said.

Tommy Walker

Tommy Lee Walker, Jr.

Age: 49

Home: Columbus

Occupation: Joined the Indiana State Police in 1990.  Master Trooper, Enforcement Division with the Indiana State Police. Rank designates officer with 15 or more years experience.

Education:  1983, Arsenal Technical High School, Indianapolis; Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice, Indiana University, 1987.      

Hobbies: Photography, weight-lifting.  

Author photo
Mark Webber is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at mwebber@therepublic.com or 812-379-5636.