OCEANSIDE — Special Olympic gold medalist Heidi Sand was sworn in as an Oceanside police officer for a day on Aug. 8 in honor of her years of athletic accomplishments and service promoting inclusion and a healthy lifestyle.
Sand moved to Oceanside from Orange County in 1988 as a toddler with her family. She has been involved with the Special Olympics since she was 12, competing in multiple sports, including basketball, bowling, floor hockey, golf, softball and tennis.
Today, Sand is a certified Special Olympics global and health messenger, leading other athletes in advocating for the organization’s message of inclusion and health.
In 2014, Sand competed in basketball at the Special Olympics USA Games before returning in 2018 to compete in tennis.
In June, she represented the USA and San Diego at the 2023 Special Olympics World Games in Berlin, winning gold in singles tennis and bronze in doubles.
Oceanside Det. Chris James tricked Sand into thinking she was coming to police headquarters to help plan a fundraiser. When she entered the building, she had no idea a room full of people – including her parents, friends, police and even new stations – were waiting for her to arrive.
“I didn’t know this was going to happen,” Sand said.
Like any other swearing-in ceremony of an officer, Sand repeated after Police Chief Kedrick Sadler as he read the oath of honor before presenting her with an OPD polo shirt customized with her name and a certificate of recognition.
“You’re part of our OPD family now,” Sadler said.
Sand was excited about her honorary title and the ride-along with James.
“My training did a lot,” Sand said. “Thanks to my parents, coaches, friends…everyone who works at the Special Olympics, thank you.”
Oceanside police worked with Sand’s mother, Jacque Martin, to surprise her with the ceremony. She described her daughter as highly motivated in her life goals and “exists to make people happy.”
“She’s always wanted everything her brothers and sisters have… she’s worked hard to get there,” Martin said. “She never wanted to be that special needs kid. She’s always wanted more out of life.”
Sand’s father, Kirby Sand, said his daughter loves to meet and socialize with others, and her parents always encouraged her to do so.
“Even when she was a young girl, we wanted her to get out there in the least restrictive environments,” he said. “She was regularly involved in tennis, basketball, ROTC – she got out into the world as much as possible.”
Sand is now an independent adult who lives independently and works two jobs, one at Sprouts and the other as a teacher’s aide in the Vista Unified School District, in addition to being an Olympian gold medalist.
“She’s a great kid,” said John Martin, Sand’s stepfather. “She wants to fit in; she’s driven, and all the glory to her mother who has raised her to be that way. She’s a true testament to never quitting, to never giving up.”
During her day as an honorary Oceanside police officer, Sand took a drive around the city with James to visit places like the pier and the Oceanside Museum of Art, where the department will hold its “Luau at the Museum” fundraiser for the Special Olympics on Aug. 29.
Law enforcement agencies across the county are involved in fundraising efforts for the Special Olympics and participate in the annual nationwide Special Olympics Law Enforcement Torch Run. Sand also participates in the torch run every year.
According to Public Information Officer Jennifer Atenza, OPD is the county’s top fundraiser for the Special Olympics among law enforcement agencies. She attributed their success to James, the lead organizer behind the department’s Special Olympics fundraising efforts.
The department is also hosting another fundraiser on Aug. 16 from 6 to 8 p.m. at Señor Grubby’s in downtown Oceanside, where 20% of sales will go to the Special Olympics.