Durham News

Police come out on top for Special Olympics

Chief Jose Lopez and Durham police officers wave to passersby from the Roxboro Road Chick-fil-A rooftop.
Chief Jose Lopez and Durham police officers wave to passersby from the Roxboro Road Chick-fil-A rooftop. jalexander@newsobserver.com

If you saw police officers on the top of Chick-Fil-A roofs Friday, it wasn‘t a sting operation and they weren’t looking for dangerous criminals.

They were raising money for the N.C. Special Olympics.

While four officers stood on the top of the Chick-Fil-A on Roxboro Road, two officers down below took donations, some selling T-shirts. One officer joked with customers on the ground via megaphone.

Last year, officers in Durham raised $3,000. Since 2008, the department has raised $40,000. Erwin Baker, community liaison officer, said he expects the initiative to make $5,000 this year. All the proceeds go to the N.C. Special Olympics.

He said people often come up to him and ask why police officers are on top of buildings.

“Everybody here seems to be glad and accepting that we’re here because they believe in the cause because it’s such a great cause,” he said.

The idea for the rooftop solicitations came from officers challenging each other over who could raise the most money by staying up there the longest.

This is the sixth year for the event in Durham, but this program is just one of many around the state that supports athletes in the N.C. Special Olympics. There are 38,000 N.C. athletes that participate in the Special Olympic, said Leslie Moyar, director development for N.C. Law Enforcement Torch Run and Special Olympics.

She said the athletes are not charged any fees to participate in the games, including flights to the games.

“That’s why it is critical for the Special Olympic athletes that law enforcement officers raise funds for athletes to be able to have the opportunity to participate in the Special Olympics,” Moyar said. “The more funds raised, the more we reach individuals with intellectual disabilities that want to participate.”

The effort began in Kansas in 1981 and migrated to other states. It reached North Carolina in 1987.

Durham police officers will attend the Durham County Special Olympics spring games April 25 at Durham Academy Upper School on 3601 Ridge Road. The opening ceremonies will begin at 10 a.m.