By Nona Tepper
Forest Park police hope to raise awareness by standing on the roof of Dunkin' Donuts on May 18, holding their fourth annual "Cop on a Rooftop" fundraiser for Special Olympics Illinois.
"Rain, shine, anything but lightning. I don't think we're supposed to go up in a thunderstorm," joked Detective Mike O'Connor, who also serves as the department's crime-free multi-housing officer.
He said police hope to raise $5,000 this year — up from the $4,700 they raised in 2016, topping all the years they've been involved in the program — through donations, and the sale of T-shirts and hats for $15, lapel pins for $5, and coffee mugs that will be priced between $5 and $10. Police will be inside and on top of 7200 Circle Ave. from 5 a.m. to noon this Friday. Forest Park officers join nearly 300 departments that will be staking out Dunkin' Donuts, including Oak Park, Chicago, and Melrose Park. Every guest who donates will receive a coupon for a free donut at Dunkin' Donuts, and those who donate more than $100 will be sent paperwork from Special Olympics Illinois to take a tax refund.
In honor of the event, Dunkin' Donuts will donate $15,000 for the Law Enforcement Torch Run, which winds through the state in 28 legs, ending in Springfield, where the Special Olympics are held. O'Connor said Forest Park officers have participated in the Torch Run three times.
"People think, 'I don't have a lot of money to donate,' but whatever change you've got in your cupholder, bring that; that's perfect," O'Connor said.
So far six officers have signed up for Cop on a Rooftop. O'Connor said he hopes to get at least one more officer involved, so Forest Park police can recreate the scene from last year, when seven police clustered on the roof and volunteers strolled up and down Harlem Avenue waving signs at motorists.
Cop on a Rooftop is one of several fundraisers Forest Park police have been involved in this year. In February, they participated in the annual Polar Plunge with other first responders and raised more than $1,500. In September, officers plan to participate in a "plane pull" at O'Hare International Airport, competing other groups to see which can pull an airplane the farthest.
O'Connor said police are also still figuring out the details of a fourth fundraiser where they will set up donation jugs for Special Olympics Illinois at local businesses. All of the group's fundraisers benefit the special needs advocacy organization.
"One of the founding roles of the police department, of any police department, is the police are the public and the public is the police, so it's one for the same," O'Connor said, noting that Cop on a Rooftop is a good way to remind everyone of this relationship.