Tustin Police officers and volunteers served onion rings and sodas to Red Robin customers on a recent Thursday during the 10th annual Tip-A-Cop event, which raises money for the Special Olympics of Southern California.
Guests visiting The District were attracted to Red Robin by red and blue lights flashing from a parked patrol car and police truck. They also could donate $2 to take a photo in the Tustin Police Officers Association’s Old Town Jail that officers installed in front of the restaurant.
Special Olympics athletes joined officers to serve tables and tell customers more about the organization.
Despite retiring from the Tustin Police Department in October, Master Reserve Officer Pam Hardacre once again coordinated Tip-A-Cop for the tenth time. She volunteered with the Special Olympics for the entirety of her 30-year career with the TPD.
“It’s just a great way to give back to the community and to let the community see us in a non-police related manner,” Hardacre said.
A new component to this year’s Tip-A-Cop is a wager Tustin Police Chief Charlie Celano made with Irvine Police Chief Mike Hamel, whose officers also hosted an identical fundraiser the same night at another Red Robin. The chief of the department that raised the least amount of money had to wash the other chief’s car.
“If I have to wash his car and we raise money for Special Olympics, I’m totally cool with it because it’s worth it,” Celano said.
Celano and Hamel have been friends since high school.
Debi Anderson, a Special Olympics athlete from Placentia, partnered with Tustin Police volunteer Mandy Krisman to serve tables. Anderson enjoyed telling customers about playing soccer, golf, and volleyball in the Special Olympics and sharing her motto, “Nothing is Impossible.”
As chairwoman of Special Olympics of Southern California’s Athlete Leadership Program Committee, Anderson has learned how to be confident while speaking in public. But approaching strangers with a uniformed police volunteer made her feel even safer.
“It gets me to tell my story,” she said.