CHICOPEE, Mass. (WWLP) – Local Police officers and the Hampden County Sherriff’s department participated in a fundraiser on Saturday with a unique twist.
Sometimes it helps to have friends in high places.
After time off during the pandemic, Police Officers from across Hampden County returned to the roof of Walmart on Saturday, partnering with the Law Enforcement Torch Run, the largest public awareness program for the Special Olympics.
The organization engages law enforcement worldwide, championing inclusion and acceptance for people with intellectual disabilities. Since it was founded, the Torch Run has raised more than $900 million.
If you’re planning a visit to the Chicopee Walmart on Saturday, expect to be accosted from above. Typically, officers gather on the roof with a megaphone, calling down to shoppers to support the cause. They’re calling this event: Cop on Top.
Travis Odiorne, the Public Information Officer for the Chicopee Police Department told 22News, “All the money raised here goes back to the Special Olympics. It stays right here in Western Mass, and they use it to provide uniforms and stuff like that when they go to competitions.”
This is the first Cop on Top fundraiser here at the Walmart since 2019. You would expect a post pandemic surge in money and support, but it didn’t exactly play out that way. Organizers tell us that they need money now, more than ever before.
In 2019 L.E.T.R. collected more than 65-million dollars, in 2020 that fell to 43-million, last year, 42-millon. The good work of the Special Olympics, though, continues all the same.
“Special Olympics does a lot for us athletes, so its a way for us to give back to them. I have a lot of friends in the program and they are like mentors to me. They treated me like an adult not like no kid,” expressed Steven Tobey. Steven is a Special Olympics athlete for the Hampshire Heat and Westside.
Cop on Top Organizers told us that interest in participating in this year’s Cop on Top was also lower than other years. To make up for the lower number of volunteers the Sheriff’s department sold sponsorships for the event for the first time, starting the day ahead 15-hundred dollars.
Those who did participate brought all the enthusiasm necessary.
Officer Bill Courchesne of the Hampden County Sherriff’s Department said, “It’s the best thing, the camaraderie amongst the departments, knowing that the only thing the Law Enforcement Torch Run does is raise money for the Special Olympics. They know they have people in their communities that are part of the Special Olympics. We have many teams here in Chicopee and West Springfield. So, to know they are helping out the local teams and not statewide, and the money will stay local.”
The team at sea level collects donations, runs raffles, and distributes prizes, with food trucks in the parking lot. Officers were up in the air from 8:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. In all the group had a local goal of raising 9,000 dollars this year, 500 more than they raised in 2019.