Red Robin Gourmet Burgers restaurants were pleased to participate in this year's "Tip-a-Cop" fundraiser on Oct. 13. The one-day nationwide event is held each year to help raise funds for the Special Olympics.
While on assignment for the Peninsula Progress this reporter had the opportunity to speak with the managers of two Red Robins restaurants along the San Francisco Peninsula, one in San Bruno on El Camino Real and the other in San Mateo. Both locations were proud to be part of the fund-raising effort in conjunction with the 380 Red Robin restaurants in 39 states which last year collected close to $750,000.00.
While the full tally of donations for this year had yet to be completed, "we estimate at the moment, that about $45,000.00 was raised that Saturday," said Ruth Sanchez, speaking on behalf of the Special Olympics.
Beginning at 11AM that Saturday and lasting until 8PM local law enforcement were able to volunteer in two shifts serving the public at table and accepting tips for donations.
Specifically, the Tip-A-Cop fundraiser is part of the annual Law Enforcement Torch Run® campaign in support of Special Olympics. Established in 1981, the LETR, which includes an international series of relay runs and special events like Tip-A-Cop, is supported by more than 100,000 law enforcement officers worldwide who help raise money and public awareness for Special Olympics.
As the largest grass roots fund raiser and public awareness vehicle for Special Olympics, LETR funds raised go directly to local programs in states or countries where the funds are generated.
"South San Francisco Police Dept. has been a supporter of the Torch Run and the 'Tip-A-Cop' for years as long as I have been here," said Srgt. Bruce McPhillips of the Community Relations Division. "Yet we got overlooked this year," he added.
"Trying to coordinate 27 Red Robin locations throughout Northern California and match them up with their local law enforcement agencies requires teamwork, said Sanchez. She serves as director for the LETR for Northern California.
Jeff Vidal, manager of the San Bruno Red Robin location expressed disappointment that he didn't have LETR participation due to a late cancellation, "Yet, said Vidal, I am impressed that our serving and hosting staff team here at the restaurant took over on their behalf and encouraged guests and patrons to donate to the cause."
Special Olympics is an international organization that changes lives through the power of sport by empowering people with intellectual disabilities, promoting acceptance for all, and fostering communities of understanding and respect worldwide. Founded in 1968 by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the Special Olympics as a Movement has grown from a few hundred athletes to 4 million athletes in 170 countries worldwide, providing year-round sports training, athletic competition and related programs.
"I am a parent of a Special Olympics athlete," said Sanchez. "I have been doing this for 20 years ever since my son, Jake was nine years old. "This is more than a job; it is a calling," she said.
Sanchez mentioned how much the Special Olympics made an important difference in her son's life. "I believe in inclusiveness and sports participation is so beneficial, making a profound impact for the rest of their lives," she said.
Christian Loza, the manager for the Red Robin at the Bridgepointe Shopping Center in San Mateo, said that more than six law enforcement officers showed up. Among them was Officer Greg Jacobson from San Mateo Police Dept., Arturo Montiel of the Redwood City CHP unit and Jon Froomin from the Foster City Police Dept.
"It was a fun night, even though we were really busy." Loza mentioned that the response from patrons that Saturday was very positive. "I think we raised about $4,000.00," he said. "Even some of our servers donated some of their tip money to the event," Loza said.
"That's humbling, to know that even the staff waiting on tables wanted to donate," said Sanchez. "That's how much Special Olympics is known and is held in high regard by many people," she said. "That is what I want to share with others when I talk about asking the community to participate in this fund raiser," said Sanchez.
Despite setbacks, Sanchez is determined to make next year's event better and more efficiently coordinated.
While the Special Olympics is well-known and held dear by so many the world-over, it is still at heart a grass-roots organization. Resources are limited and the cooperation of the community is always needed.
"We were hoping to raise at least $70,000.00 this year," said Sanchez. Yet the impact of the economic recession is still evident in almost every community.
Regardless of the recession and obstacles that may crop up, she has faith in the people and their generosity. "The people here in the Bay Area are amazing and can be very committed to causes with such generosity." "That is why I love it here," she said.
Special Olympics provides people with intellectual disabilities the opportunity to realize their potential, develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, and experience joy and friendship. To learn more or to donate visit the Special Olympics web site.