No, it wasn’t a lack of caffeine that had you seeing police officers on the roof of the Shelburne Road Dunkin’ last Friday. It was the annual “Cops on Top” event.
Cops on Top is a national fundraiser that pairs law enforcement officers with disabled athletes to raise money for the Special Olympics. Athletes and officers alike meet at participating Dunkin’ locations – some taking to the roof – to solicit donations for the organization and dole out doughnut coupons for donors.
Last year, the Vermont Cops on Top event raised about $2,200. This year, participating locations in Burlington, South Burlington, Colchester, Montpelier, Derby and Rutland hoped to surpass that amount – and they did. Special Olympics Vermont Events Manager Meghan Sweezy said $4,282 was raised.
South Burlington Police Department Cpl. Brianne Williamson took to the roof of the Shelburne Road Dunkin’ in Burlington on Aug. 16. It was her third time participating in Cops on Top and she had a smile on her face as she cheered at coffee-seekers who donated to the cause.
And while climbing a roof might not be Williamson’s daily routine, she sees the fundraising event as complementary to her job.
“It just makes sense for law enforcement officers to be partnered with Special Olympics,” she said. “We protect and we serve. Oftentimes people look at individuals with intellectual disabilities as outcasts … so it’s our job as police in the community to bring light to them and to show them for who they are.”
Plus, she said, this event and other Special Olympics fundraisers and competitions are “good for the soul.”
Donations to Special Olympics Vermont support a range of programs from the nine state competitions – including the seasonal games – to school programing like Unified Champion Schools which pairs disabled athletes with able athletes at about 75 Vermont schools.
“It helps to eliminate bullying in schools,” Sweezy said. “It has proven to be a very well received program.”
Special Olympics Vermont also provides services like “Healthy Athletes” in which local medical professionals volunteer to give health screenings to Special Olympics athletes, and a Farm to Athlete program which supplies farm fresh food to Special Olympics participants during competitions.
The organization serves over 1,600 athletes around the state, some of whom were present at the Cops on Top event.
“It’s a great cause,” Special Olympics athlete and Burlington resident Joshua Beaupre said as he collected donations outside the Burlington Dunkin’. “Olympics is about friendship and family; it doesn’t matter if you win or lose it’s about having a good time.”
Having police officers participating in those events and fundraising means a great deal, according to Sweezy. Law enforcement contributes to the organization in several ways, from helping with fundraisers like Cops on Top to bestowing medals to winning athletes at the games and participating in the international Law Enforcement Torch Run.
“I think it makes things really exciting for our athletes, getting an award from someone who works for the government, the state,” Sweezy said.
For several years now, South Burlington’s Cpl. Williamson has been a presence at the state games, fundraisers and in the Law Enforcement Torch Run – which calls attention to the games both nationally and internationally. Through her efforts she’s traveled as far as Abu Dhabi to herald the games’ “Flame of Hope.” Along the way, she’s made friends with athletes, even running with them outside of Special Olympics competition events.
“With all of the stuff that is so negative around law enforcement and policing, [Special] Olympics is the complete opposite,” she said. “These athletes are a light, they make you smile, they have the most amazing sportsmanship that I’ve ever seen.”
At the South Burlington Dunkin’ on Williston Road, Barre Probation Officer Tiffanie Aguilar and State Trooper Steve DiGregorio where glad to be a part of the event.
“I have someone in my life who has special needs, so it was a way to give back,” Aguilar said.
“I think law enforcement as a whole has always been about giving back,” DiGregorio said, adding it complements the Torch Run and medal draping Vermont officers do with Special Olympics. “It’s another way to give back and help out.”
For those who missed the event and wish to help, Sweezy says donations can be made at https://specialolympicsvermont.org. Individuals who are interested in volunteering their time to one of the organization’s events can also learn more about programing on the website. The organization is currently seeking volunteers for its fall games.