SPARKS — Applebees Restaurant in Sparks were greeted with special servers Thursday who participated in the bi-annual Tip-A-Cop program to raise funds for local Special Olympic athletes.
Thursday’s lunch servers were made up of Sparks Police Department Explorers, volunteer officers who are not yet old enough to join the ranks but are learning to serve with pride.
“I wanted to staff this event completely with Explorers,” said Mary Crandall, an emergency communications dispatcher and advisor to the young officers. “I wanted to show the community what a wonderful asset they are to the community.”
This year’s focus was to send two bowling teams to an event, Crandall said.
“It’s totally worth it, absolutely,” Crandall said. “I like the enthusiasm the kids have and the skills (the Explorers) learn from it.”
Explorer Christian Roberts, 20, said he planned to pursue a career in law enforcement after his stint with the program and was impressed with the generosity of Thursday’s lunch crowd.
“We have a lot of people making generous donations to the Special Olympics.”
Hannah Zamora, 18, who has only been with the program for two months, also helped.
Special Olympic athlete from Sparks, Bonnie Seaton, who wore her gold medal to the restaurant, said she likes bowling best. Her highest score has been 163.
“I love what I do and I will never quit,” Seaton said.
Steve Cabrales, Torch Run manager of the organization who is based in Las Vegas works with law enforcement agencies throughout the state to organize the Tip-A-Cop events twice a year. According to Cabrales, the events in northern Nevada raise $10,000 each year between Carson City, Reno and Sparks to fund travel, uniforms and other expenses for the athletes. The state raises $50,000 for the Special Olympics program, he said.
All funds raised stay in their local areas. The cost per athlete to participate in each sport is $250.
“Nevada has over 4,000 athletes statewide,” Cabrales said.
Customers filled the restaurant as the small group of officers, athletes and servers milled about.
“I think it’s a great thing that they do this every year,” said customer Valerie Gill. “It’s a good thing to have something to give to the Olympians to do something they enjoy.”
The restaurant usually takes in $1,000 each lunch service during the Tip-A-Cop event.
“It’s really nice that Applebees participates,” said customer Carolyn Meagher.