There's only one time in your life when you can be sipping on a beer while speaking to the chief of police, only to have the chief information officer for the CHP come over midsentence to place a bowl of hot French onion soup in front of you...with a smile.
This surreal experience was happening for diners at Applebee's in Rohnert Park Thursday, June 22, for a three-hour shift. Diners who arrived between 5 and 8 p.m. may have been concerned that the parking lot was filled with patrol cars, but there wasn’t anyplace safer to be. This was part of the twice- annual “Tip a Cop” event hosted by the Rohnert Park Department of Public Safety in order to help support Special Olympics. During a “Tip a Cop” event police officers wait on customers at a local restaurant, bring food to the table, and any donations (tips) given to the officers go directly to Special Olympics of Northern California. This is important to the athletes who participate in the Special Olympics because the money raised provides them with free year-round sports training and competition opportunities in 12 different sports.
Chief Brian Masterson was present, visiting different tables to chat, and was quick to praise the athletes they were supporting, “The neat thing about the Special Olympics is that they’re heroes helping other Olympic heroes. It’s beyond just a competition,” he said, “for example, years ago I was watching a volleyball practice at UC Berkeley, and the teams were getting to the end of the game. One team spiked the ball over the net, just really nailed it, winning the game. It’s what happened next that really stuck with me…the team that got spiked all went under the net and gave the winning team hugs. They were all smiling and just really happy to have had a good game. That’s what makes this a great organization to support.”
Some of the athletes and volunteers were milling around as well. One athlete, Erika Alsburg, was happy to sit down and talk about her experiences with the Special Olympics, “I swim. I’m really good at the breaststroke, and I’ve done ice skating. I didn’t make it this year, but that’s OK. I have in the past, and I can be here to help out. It’s really nice, a really great experience!” she said with a big grin.
As the evening came to an end, there were only a couple of T shirts left for purchase – all large, testament to the number of patrons that were more than happy to show their support. One couple handed an envelope with their tip to Chief Masterson as they left, shaking his hand and thanking him effusively for his work that night, and for his work with the City of Rohnert Park.
To keep up with the next “Tip a Cop,” as well as other events, check the Public Safety Department’s Facebook page; www.facebook.com/RohnertParkPoliceFire. If you want to make a donation to Special Olympics, but are unable to make a “Tip a Cop” event, you can write a check to Special Olympics (or SONC) and send it to the Public Safety department at 500 City Center Dr. Rohnert Park, CA 94928.