RUMFORD — Fundraising for Special Olympics of Maine and running law enforcement torch runs has been a way of life for Douglas Maifeld for the past 24 years.
He's raised an estimated $20,000 for Special Olympics Maine since 1988 and helped raise the esteem and courage of participating athletes along the way.
But this, his 25th year, will be quite different. For one thing, Sgt. Maifeld won't be running the torch from Rumford to Dixfield or running at all.
While helping to raise funds for area youth and the Greater Rumford Community Center by competing in sumo suit wrestling on March 17, a freak accident put him out of work for several weeks.
Maifeld's right knee suddenly popped out while he wrestled with Dixfield police officer Eric Bernier.
"I just blew out my meniscus totally, and I had to have ACL reconstruction,” he said late Friday morning at home.
This month, his doctor had to take part of his hamstring and use it to make a new anterior cruciate ligament.
"They had to clean out my meniscus," he said.
"My leg isn't where I want it to be. Running is out of the question.
“I can't even go for a walk yet," Maifeld said. "But I'm finally out of the brace and I'm finally pushing the crutches aside."
Since Rumford police have mountain bikes for summer patrols through the downtown, Maifeld said he hopes to carry the torch while riding a bike.
"This will be my 25th year, that's why I'm kind of bummed with my injury that I won't be able to run it," he said.
"But I'm trying to convince my physical therapist to maybe at least let me ride the bike to the bottom of Lincoln Avenue."
Rumford's leg of the law enforcement torch run starts at 6 a.m. Thursday, June 7, on upper Congress Street by the fire station.
On March 29, the day Maifeld learned that he'd torn his ACL, Special Olympics of Maine held a conference in Portland.
During it, they presented the Bob Bell Award to Maifeld. It is the highest honor a Maine law enforcement member can receive from the organization.
It is named for longtime Bridgton police Chief Bob Bell, who helped start the law enforcement torch run. The trophy of a torch was given to Maifeld for his 25 years of volunteering and going above and beyond in raising money for Special Olympians throughout Maine, Maifeld said.
"It was some good news on a bad news day," he said.
The experience was humbling.
"I don't feel as if I can ever give back," Maifeld said.
"I mean, this is a great award and I appreciated it, but I don't think I can ever give back more than (Special Olympics Maine) has given me."
He said he attended the Special Olympics International Conference in Nashville, was picked as one of two guys to go to New York after 9/11 to do that run in New York City, and rode on a LifeFlight helicopter with a Special Olympics athlete to help start the Summer Games in Orono one year.
Maifeld's also been to the Winter Games at Sugarloaf to help hand out medals, and brought his children one year, which he said was "a real eye opener for them."
As of Friday, Maifeld said he has raised $500 for Special Olympics Maine and continues to sell raffle tickets for a 2012 Harley-Davidson motorcycle to benefit Special Olympics, despite his debilitating injury.
"It hasn't been fun, but you know what?" he asked.
"I love Special Olympics, and I love to be able to help people get to do things that I take for granted. Lately, though, I haven't taken it for granted."