Aug 06, 2014 Jason Emerson Uncategorized
Police officers were swarming rooftops last week throughout Central New York communities — not searching for criminals, but raising awareness and money for New York Special Olympics athletes through the “Cops on Top” fundraiser. The annual event saw police officers standing on the roofs of participating Dunkin Donuts shops, getting the attention of local patrons, while volunteers on the ground collected donations and gave away free gifts.
In Cazenovia, police officers Rich Bennett, Tom Engelman, Mike DeGregorio and Krystyna Rottella were at the Dunkin Donuts at the Xtramart on Albany Street, where they raised nearly $1,500 in four hours.
“We’re killin’ it today,” said Bennett, as he and his fellow officers stood under a tent on the front sidewalk of the Xtramart. “The roof of this building does not allow us to stand up there, so we’re ‘on top’ of the sidewalk, which I think is better because we can actually talk to people.”
The officers, along with Cazenovia Dunkin Donuts Manager Tara Patak and local Special Olympics athlete Diane Budnar, gave away coupons for a free coffee or donut with any donation; an official “Cops on Top” T-shirt and a free coffee or donut with a donation of $20 or more; and a T-shirt, free pound of coffee and free donut or coffee with a donation of $50 or more.
There were 29 participating Dunkin locations from Binghamton to Oswego and Cazenovia to Auburn — locally that included Cazenovia, Manlius, DeWitt, Liverpool, Baldwinsville and North Syracuse — which was a large increase from the inaugural event three years ago in which only seven locations participated, Patak said. This was, in fact, the first time for Cazenovia’s Dunkin to participate.
“I love doing any type of fundraiser for the community,” Patak said. “But this one especially because Diane is a local athlete.”
Budnar, who lives and works in Cazenovia, participates in six different Special Olympics sporting events, including downhill skiing, bocce, golf, bowling, swimming and volleyball. She wore one of her downhill skiing medals during the event on Aug. 1.
“Dunkin Donuts is such a great partner in support of the Special Olympics,” said Marian Budnar, Diane’s mother, who is also a Special Olympics swimming coach. She’s been involved in the organization for 25 years, and she and Diane were the ones who approached the Cazenovia Police Department about participating this year, said Cassandra Rucker, director of marketing for the New York Special Olympics.
“The Cazenovia location did a fabulous job this year,” Rucker said. “We’re very fortunate to have the support of 30 different police agencies, about 160 officers, almost all of them who did this volunteering their time.”
The purpose of the fundraiser is to bring attention to the fact that there are 64,659 Special Olympics athletes in New York state — that is the largest chapter in North America and the fifth largest in the world, Rucker said. The funds raised help support all the New York athletes who benefit from year-round training and competition at no charge to them, she said.
“Special Olympics athletes are five times more likely to have a job and volunteer in their community because of participating in our Special Olympics-based on mentorship and in the Olympics,” Rucker said.
This year’s fundraising goal for the Cops on Top event was $25,000, but the total intake looked like it was going to be closer to $30,000, Rucker said. Full tabulations had not been made as of press time.
Fundraising totals per event location range from $700 up to more than $2,600 at the Front Street Dunkin Donuts location in Binghamton, Rucker said.
In Cazenovia last week, more than 200 people contributed and volunteers raised $1,451, which included selling more than 40 T-shirts, Bennett said. In fact, the officers sold out their box of T-shirts, brought in a second box and sold those out too, Bennett said.
“Hopefully this is the first year of many in Cazenovia,” he said.
Even though the Cops on Top event occurred last week, the New York Special Olympics is always seeking donations. For more information, to get involved in the organization or donate money, visit nyso.org.
The next major NYSO event will be the Polar Plunge on Sunday, Dec. 7, at Oneida Shores in Brewerton, where Diane Budnar is one of the top fundraisers, Rucker said. “She’s done it about eight times — she’s definitely a superstar.”
More information about the Polar Plunge can be found online at polarplungeny.org.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Cazenovia Republican. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Cazenovia Republican and Eagle Bulletin newspapers.