For National Police Week, May 10 to 16, we are thanking our 13,577 Law Enforcement Torch Run members across Canada by sharing some of their stories. These Canadian law enforcement personnel donate their personal time to not only raise awareness of Special Olympics, but also raise critical funds. LETR is the largest public awareness and grassroots fundraising organization for the worldwide Special Olympics movement. Please join us in celebrating their incredible impact on the lives of Special Olympics athletes and their families.
MEET THE PROVINCIAL DIRECTOR OF LETR IN ALBERTA: BRAYLON HYGGEN
1. What is your role in law enforcement?
I am currently assigned to the Lethbridge Police Service Canine Unit and work with Police Service Dog Myke. Myke is a 5-year-old Belgian Malinois who has attended many LETR events.
2. When did you first get involved in law enforcement and why?
I have been a police officer since 2008. I didn’t start policing until I was 35-years-old and wanted to get more involved in my community.
3. What do you love about your job?
I have always been interested in the community aspect of the job. The Canine Unit allows the opportunity to provide demonstrations for schools and other community groups. I also spent five years in the Downtown Policing Unit, which involved working with community partners. Building trusting relationships with those who normally do not trust police is rewarding.
4. Do you have a favourite moment/highlight from your career?
My career goal when hired as a police officer was to become a Canine Handler. I tried out for the unit in 2016 and was successful. Becoming a Canine Handler will be my career highlight.
5. In what capacity do you participate in LETR?
I was selected as the Alberta Provincial Director in January 2020.
6. When and why did you get involved with Special OIympics/LETR?
In 2010, I was asked to participate in a community LETR run. I honestly didn’t know what LETR or Special Olympics was about at that time, but I enjoyed running, so I said yes. I started volunteering and meeting local athletes. The athletes always had huge smiles on their faces and the happiness was contagious. In 2012, I attended the Final Leg for the Special Olympics Canada Winter Games in St. Albert, Alberta. I watched the Opening Ceremony and stood beside a young man who was cheering for the athletes. This young man was not participating in the Games, but cheered for every province as they were introduced. This young man demonstrated the true meaning of sport. That young man was the reason I got hooked and have been involved ever since.
7. What is your favourite Special Olympics/LETR moment/memory?
In 2017, Medicine Hat, Alberta hosted the Provincial Summer Games. I had the honour of carrying the LETR Flame of Hope into the Opening Ceremony with my partner, Police Service Dog Myke. To top off the Games, my basketball team won gold medals.
8. How has Special Olympics/LETR changed your life?
Working with athletes is one of the ways of getting away from the negative parts of the job. I love to watch the athletes participate in events. It doesn’t matter what team or who scores, it brings smiles to both teams. It has helped me appreciate the little things.
9. What made you decide to also get involved as a coach?
In 2014, I was asked by one of the Lethbridge Special Olympics board members if I would like to help coach a sport. The only sport I had enough knowledge of or felt comfortable coaching was basketball. Lethbridge did not have a basketball team, so in January 2015 I started coaching a newly organized team. The team has continued to grow in numbers and we are now in year six and are looking forward to our second Provincial Games in 2021. This gave me the opportunity to see how raising funds and awareness through LETR benefits Special Olympics.
10. Why should other law enforcement officials get involved in LETR?
The reward of bringing smiles to the athletes’ faces is indescribable. Sitting in a jail cell at a “Free our Finest” event or having an athlete hang a medal around your neck at the end of a race is memorable. I have both good and bad memories from policing, but the LETR memories are all good. LETR rewards members with good memories and connections with other Law Enforcement members from around the globe.