By Chris Fish
BREVARD -- Known for putting their lives in danger every day, one group of police officers said a recent experience was far more terrifying than anything they've experienced in law enforcement - waiting tables.
"I personally have never worked in the food industry before, and I can honestly say that, after carrying just a few plates of food to tables the other night, I have so much respect for those (who do)," said Sgt. Sheridan Shelley of the Melbourne Police Department. "I was terrified that I would drop something on a customer, so I, instead, sold Special Olympics Torch Run merchandise for most of the night. I feel more comfortable responding to a robbery than I do carrying a bunch of plates full of food."
On March 10, the Melbourne Police Department raised $1,552 in four hours for Special Olympics Florida during the "Tip a Cop" event.
The event took place at Charlie and Jake's Bar-B-Que in Indian Harbour Beach, in which the department partnered with the restaurant in support of the cause.
Funding was raised by Special Olympics Torch Run merchandise sales, donations, tips earned by police personnel, working as servers and through a certain percentage of Charlie and Jake's food sales.
The effort is part of a nationwide event, called "The Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics," which is designed to increase awareness and raise funding for the Special Olympics movement.
Sgt. Shelley said that the department has participated in events that raise funds for the Special Olympics for nearly five years.
"We have never seen a year like this," he said about the event. "More and more officers and department personnel are becoming interested in volunteering their time and helping to raise funds."
Sgt. Shelley said that the department is also seeing large support from the community.
"The Melbourne Fire Fighter's Union presented us with a check for the Special Olympics in the amount of $3,000," he said. "That is an amazing contribution."
Laura Collins, manager of the Law Enforcement Torch Run Special Olympics Florida, said that this effort is just another example of how the law enforcement community is dedicated to serving the public through various facets.
"I am always amazed at the efforts that the law enforcement community makes on behalf of the athletes of Special Olympics Florida," she said. "Our local law enforcement officers are truly members of the community they serve and are always willing to give back to the community."
Ms. Collins said that the mission of Special Olympics Florida is to provide year-round sports training and athletic competition to children and adults with intellectual disabilities, giving them continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, experience joy and participate in the sharing of gifts, skills and friendship with their families, other Special Olympics athletes and the community.
Sgt. Shelley said that he enjoyed the experience.
"The 'Tip A Cop' event is a great experience for police department personnel, and I fully believe the customers, who join us, enjoy it, too," he said. "Special Olympics has become a premier charity for law enforcement agencies throughout the United States. Programs, such as athletic training and competitive sports, occur year-round, and the great thing about this organization is that they do not charge athletes or their families to participate."
Ms. Collins agreed that efforts, such as 'Tip A Cop,' enable Special Olympics Florida to continue to allow athletes and families to participate, free of charge.
Sgt. Shelley said he hopes to see the department continue its charitable efforts.
"The Melbourne Police Department plans on doing more fundraising events with local businesses," he said. "We will also be participating in the Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics on April 25. Anyone that would like to join us is welcome."
Sgt. Shelley said that those wishing to participate in the Torch Run in April are asked to purchase a Total Run T-shirt. Shirts will be available the day of the run.
For more information about Special Olympics Florida and events happening in the community, visit www.specialolympicsflorida.org.