Autographs of baseball legends Yogi Berra and Ted Williams have been replaced on the office walls of Lt. Col Ward Webb with plaques honoring his years of service to the Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics.
Webb, head of the Ascension Parish Sheriff's Office patrol division, was surprised in September when he was inducted into the Richard LaMunyon Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics Hall of Fame at the 2017 Law Enforcement Torch Run International Conference in Nashville, Tennessee.
As a member of the conference's planning committee, Webb had arrived a few days early but had no idea he was nominated for the award until his biography was read in a room of 1,000 law enforcement professionals, he said.
To win the honor, a lawman must have a history of contributing to the Torch Run movement and Special Olympics at the local, national and international levels.
Webb serves as vice chairman of the Louisiana Law Enforcement Torch Run group and is on the planning committee for the international conference.
Webb first became involved in the torch run in 1988 as a member of the Ascension Parish Sheriff's Office. He volunteered for several years, but the department stopped participating in the mid-'90s. That all changed in 2008, when Sheriff Jeff Wiley welcomed a new grandchild into his family, a child with Down syndrome, Webb said.
"We've been very involved in Special Olympics as a department," Ward said. "The sheriff asked me to take the lead and that's what I did."
Webb's friends and family know to expect several email reminders each year about his fundraising efforts for the annual Polar Plunge, which raises money for Special Olympics.
"Torch Run is really a movement ... which includes several events," he said. "It's become part of my life, a part that brings me joy."
Law enforcement officers volunteer each year to carry the Special Olympic torch to the events around the country. In Louisiana, the torch travels the days leading up to the Louisiana games.
In the Polar Plunge, which Webb is most known for in the parish, lawmen and others jump into icy waters to raise money. This year's Gonzales plunge is Feb. 17, and Webb expects to start sending emails before Christmas.
Law enforcement officers also take part in "over the edge" events where they repel from a high building.
One of Webb's favorite events is the Special Olympics Field Day that welcomes around 50 athletes with disabilities to compete in a variety of games. Volunteers help the athletes navigate the events and the Sheriff's Office feeds them, he said.
"Anything we can do to make their day brighter," Webb said."It's great to see them compete and have fun."
Webb said the relationships he has developed with many of the Special Olympians have enriched his life. He especially has enjoyed watching the progress and growth of multimedal winning Special Olympian K'von Albert.
Money raised by the Law Enforcement Torch Run group is used to pay for equipment needed for the Special Olympics, including supplies Albert used in the games.
Webb's dedication and fundraising abilities for Special Olympics has not gone unnoticed, said Pat Carpenter Bourgeois, president and CEO of Special Olympics Louisiana.
"In the history of Special Olympics Louisiana, Ward is the highest individual fundraiser," Bourgeois said. "Ward demonstrates outstanding achievements and portrays dedication and passion for our athletes through the Law Enforcement Torch Run movement on a local, state and international level.”
Ascension Parish Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Allison Hudson said the department is lucky to have a Webb as a role model who sets the standard for helping others.
Hudson said Webb "has a big heart ... and works tirelessly to get the word out about Special Olympics."