Police Chief Dan Hughes had barely stepped into Heroes Bar & Grill in downtown Fullerton when a patron in a baseball cap walked up to him and handed him $10.
“Hey chief, I want you to have this,” the man said. “I just want to support you guys.”
The generous patron then disappeared into the back of the establishment.
It was that kind of night for the Fullerton PD: patrons opening up their wallets to support a great cause, Special Olympics Southern California, at the FPD’s annual Tip a Cop event.
Organized by Community Service Officer Juanita Juarez, the May 14 fund-raiser featured a visit by two of the FPD’s K-9 officers, Rotar and Mueller.
Also on hand was Special Olympian Christian Valdez, 19, who excels in swimming, attends Fullerton College, and volunteers at the historic Fox Fullerton Theatre, as well as at some FPD events such as the upcoming June 5 Torch Run for the Special Olympics Summer World Games.
Valdez wore a gold medal around his neck that he won for the breaststroke at a trial run for the World Games, which will be held July 25 through Aug. 2 at USC. During the competition, Cal State Fullerton will house several Special Olympians.
“I think this is a great idea to have the Fullerton PD support the Special Olympics,” said patron Lupe White, who with her husband, Gary, made a donation.
Debbie Sorensen, a teacher at La Habra High School, was celebrating her mother-in-law Helen’s 80th birthday with relatives when Heroes Bar & Grill suddenly became flooded with Fullerton cops, some wearing colorful flashing sunglasses that were given to patrons who donated $10 ($20 would get you a T-shirt).
Sorensen’s table donated $40.
“The Special Olympics gives kids and adults a chance to succeed, and this event is real good for the community of Fullerton,” Sorensen said.
At another table, Debbye Viveros and her daughter, Sam, 12, spent a lot of time with Mueller, a 6-year-old Belgian Melanois, and his handler, Officer Jonathan Miller.
That’s because Viveros’ late father, Bruce Mueller, and his wife, Fran — both longtime volunteers with the FPD — ponied up more than $15,000 to pay for the K-9.
“They’ve been like a family to us,” Viveros said of the Fullerton PD.
Viveros is a kindergarten teacher at Arbolita Elementary School in La Habra.
“I always try to instill in my kids the importance of supporting people who support you,” Viveros said.
Members of the Fullerton PD especially were kind to Viveros and her family after her father passed away a few years ago, visiting them on Thanksgiving and Christmas.
“Anything they (Fullerton PD) need, I do my best to provide,” said Viveros, who also has a son, Nick, 16.
Derek Montellanico was sitting at the bar nursing a rum and coke with a buddy when he saw all the officers interacting with bar patrons.
Montellanico, 33, a mortgage broker who lives in Pittsburgh, was visiting his friend, who lives in Brea.
The two just happened upon the Tip a Cop event.
“Usually when I see cops walk into a bar,” Montellanico said with a smile, “I run out the back door.”
Then he reached for his wallet to get his ATM card.
It was time, he said, to donate to a great cause.