Group to reach new heights to help Special Olympics

Naugatuck police Det. Tom McGarvey is pictured at the summit of Mt. Washington in New Hampshire in February 2018. McGarvey is part of a group from the state participating in the Conquering Kilimanjaro campaign to raise awareness and funds for Special Olympics Connecticut. –CONTRIBUTED

NAUGATUCK — In about 10 months’ time, Naugatuck police Det. Tom McGarvey plans to be on top of the world — specifically Africa.

McGarvey, a six-year veteran of the Naugatuck Police Department and a former U.S. Marine, is one of a group of about 14 people, mostly police officers, from the state participating in the Conquering Kilimanjaro campaign. The group plans to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro — all 19,341 feet of it — in Tanzania next February to raise awareness and funds for Special Olympics Connecticut.

“The more attention that something like this gets, the more awareness that it brings to Special Olympics and in return the more funds, which is just good all-around for the athletes,” said McGarvey, a 33-year-old Prospect resident.

The campaign is part of the Law Enforcement Torch Run program, a year-round program where local law enforcement supports Special Olympics, said Jackie Turro, senior director of special events for Special Olympics Connecticut.

All of the proceeds raised from, such events benefit Special Olympics Connecticut’s year-round sports training and competitions, health and wellness, and educational programs for over 12,000 Connecticut athletes, Turro said.

Turro said this is the first time a group has approached Special Olympics Connecticut about an event like Conquering Kilimanjaro.

“It’s such an inspiring group of people that are truly extraordinary for doing something like this for our athletes,” she said.

McGarvey is no stranger to mountain climbing. He has climbed mountains throughout the Northeast, including Mt. Washington in New Hampshire in the middle of winter, and his Marine Corps training included mountain warfare training in Korea. But, Mount Kilimanjaro poses his largest challenge to date.

McGarvey said the group plans to get together and do some climbing, and he will continue to personally train at CT Combat Training Center in Oakville. But, he said, the biggest challenge is altitude sickness, which is difficult to prepare for because it’s hard to know how someone’s body will react until they are at a high altitude.

“Yeah, Mount Kilimanjaro is a challenge, but compared to what the athletes of the Special Olympics face, they’re used to this kind of stuff,” McGarvey said. “It’s a good message that it puts across.”

The group’s goal is to raise $150,000, and McGarvey has set a personal goal of raising $10,000. Donations can be made online at give.classy.org/NPD2KILI. McGarvey also plans to host events, with the help of his fellow borough officers, over the coming months to raise funds.

The first event, Brunch for a Cause, will be Sunday from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. at 66 Church, 66 Church St. Naugatuck police officers will assist staff and accept donations for the campaign.

McGarvey has the backing of the Naugatuck Police Department, which has supported Special Olympics over the years by participating in the Law Enforcement Torch Run.

“With the history of the department supporting Special Olympics and being involved, we thought that it was a great way to show that continued support and allow one of officers to get involved on a personal level,” police spokesman Lt. C. Colin McAllister said about the Conquering Kilimanjaro campaign.

McGarvey also plans to seek sponsorships from local businesses. McGarvey said he’ll bring a banner of businesses that sponsor him and take photos with the banners at different points along the climb.

For information or to donate, email McGarvey at tmcgarvey@naugatuckpd.org.