Community Involvement, Inside CDCR Video, Rehabilitation

Inmates raise money for Special Olympics with Flame of Hope run

Video by Ike Dodson
Office of Public and Employee Communications

CDCR employees may watch this video:

CDCR’s staff have made Special Olympics one of the department’s charities of choice. They are not alone.

Incarcerated people across the state have rallied behind the organization that helps children and adults with intellectual disabilities find joy, confidence and fulfillment through athletics.

In 2018, CDCR as a whole gave a whopping $203,000 to Special Olympics Northern California.

On May 31, participants at California State Prison, Solano (CSP-SOL) welcomed SONC athletes, parents and administrators to a special “Flame of Hope” ceremony and torch run.

Inmates shared creative artistry, like music, painting, interpretive dance and even a ceremonial haka, and 220 men joined CDCR staff and Special Olympic athletes for ceremonial runs during two events on two yards.

Runners raised a minimum of $25 for the honor of carrying the Special Olympics torch. In total, the event donated $3,428 to SONC.

The event was made possible by the prison group Beyond Ordinary Life Doings and CSP-SOL Captain Marlaina Dernoncourt, a longtime supporter of Special Olympics and the founder/sponsor of prison’s self-help group.

“The inmates can actually donate off of their trust accounts with money they have earned through working and different things,” Dernoncourt said before the runners began their final jaunts. “Also Special Olympics has set up a website so the inmate family members can go online and sponsor their loved one and donate money on their behalf to the Special Olympics.”

Special Olympics Northern California enriches the lives of more than 23,925 children and adults.

“(Incarcerated people) don’t make much, and for the amount they contribute just shows how much they care about the cause,” Special Olympics Northern California Events Manager Scott Souza said during the event. “And so you really get that sense when you come out here, that it’s more than just fundraising.

“They really support what we are doing and want to be a part of it.”

Or watch the YouTube video (may not be available to CDCR employees):

TRANSCRIPT

Lvl 3 Yard Poetic Interpretation

This is an interpretation of the words, “Flame of Hope.”

“F.” Feeling down and lonely.

“L.” Letting myself drown slowly.

“A.” Angels appearing before me.

“M.” Made me believe in something holy.

“E.” Elements evolving, exploding from inside of me.

“O.” Oblivious to the world around me.

“F.” Focusing on a heart full of memories.

“H.” Heaven shining its light upon me.

“O.” Optimistic I become.

“P.” Patiently seeking.

“E.” Everlasting peace and harmony.

Flame of Hope.

Captain Marlaina Dernoncourt, California State Prison-Solano

The inmates can actually donate off of their trust accounts with money they have earned through working and different things.

Also Special Olympics has set up a website so the inmate family members can go online and sponsor their loved one and donate money on their behalf to the Special Olympics.

Alonzo Riley, Master of Ceremonies

I believe that giving is the highest form of living, and so when we start learning to give back without expectations of things coming back to us, I think that is a change for a lot of these men.

Scott Souza, Special Olympics Northern California Events Manager

They don’t make much, and for the amount they contribute just shows how much they care about the cause.

And so you really get that sense when you come out here, that it’s more than just fundraising.

They really support what we are doing and want to be a part of it.

It’s great. From the moment we walk in, they greet us with a tunnel and the high-fives don’t stop the whole day. A lot of smiles and just true joy to be a part of this.

Philip White, Lvl. 3 Coordinator

Those inmates that you see laughing and having fun, they’re happy that they were able to contribute to something positive and give back, because for many of us, we’ve never did anything but take, and that’s a good feeling for them to have.

Seeing an inmate have fun, it’s something that should be embraced as positive.

These are the same inmates that are getting back out to the community. They may live next door to you.

For a majority of us that do leave, we leave with resources. We leave with insight as to why we committed the crimes that we committed, and how we can be assets to our community, versus liabilities to our community.