Two Forest Preserve District police officers recently raised $1,000 for Special Olympics in one day, but they've been carrying a torch for the organization for years.
Steve Kirsch and Darrell Mayle took part in a Tip-A-Cop event at Red Robin in Plainfield on October 21 where they raised funds through "tips" from restaurant customers. They also handed out educational literature about the Law Enforcement Torch Run organization, which raises awareness and money year-round for Special Olympics athletes. Both Kirsch and Mayle have been members of the organization for several years.
During the Tip-A-Cop event, Kirsch said he, Mayle and a Will County Sheriff’s Police deputy greeted customers at the restaurant and gave children wristbands, rulers and junior deputy badges. Ninety-five percent of the people solicited for donations contributed, and two of the donations were $100 bills.
Kirsch first joined the Torch Run organization because his daughter, Rikki, 23, is a Special Olympian. She won two gold medals in 2014 at the national games in New Jersey.
"I consider myself very fortunate to be able to help Special Olympics," Kirsch said. "These athletes live for these types of events and being able to compete."
Mayle said he started getting involved with the organization after he began running as a hobby. Both he and Kirsch ran in the 2017 Illinois Torch Run event, which took place in June and involved around 3,000 officers from a variety of law enforcement agencies carrying the Flame of Hope 1,500 miles.
The two officers also have participated in Polar Plunge, Dunkin' Donuts Cop on a Rooftop, and Plane Pull events, all sponsored by the Law Enforcement Torch Run, which has raised almost $43 million for Special Olympics in 31 years.
Interacting with Special Olympians at fundraising events is one of the best parts of volunteering for the organization, Mayle said.
"You talk to them and their eyes light up and it makes it all worth it," he said.
Kirsch said the volunteer work also shows how police officers are out working to benefit the community.
"This lets people see another side of law enforcement," he said. "We're out there truly trying to help people."
Police officers who chip in their time also benefit from the fundraising events, Mayle added.
"We're trying to give back to the community, but I don't know if it's giving back because we get so much more out of it than we give."
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