Retired local law enforcement officer John Sanchez has been volunteering with the Special Olympics for more than 20 years. It all started in Stockton, when he awarded medals to athletes competing in a Special Olympics program.
“Ever since then I’ve been hooked,” Sanchez explained. “To interact with athletes, to know their life stories, their parents and the issues they had growing up, from young children to older adults, I think Special Olympics has helped them become a part of the community.”
The annual “Cop On a Rooftop” event took place from 6 to 10 a.m. across the nation on Thursday morning as police officers raised money and awareness for Special Olympics programs. The Special Olympics Northern California website listed 14 participating Dunkin’ Donuts locations throughout the Bay Area, and each donation was matched with a free coffee voucher.
This was the second year that Half Moon Bay’s doughnut franchise location participated in the fundraising. The steep angle and uneven tiling of the roof prevented officers from getting to the top, but they made do with patrol cars, a banner, and donation buckets at the door and drive-through.
Aside from the seven officers present, there was also Ricky Sparks, Special Olympian and freshman at Half Moon Bay High School. Sanchez said the tone regarding Special Olympics and the athletes has changed over the years, becoming not just more accepting, but more inclusive.
“I think that’s well deserved,” Sanchez said. “I think it means a lot to the athletes. And the parents like that idea. Instead of their kid being shut-in or bullied or whatever, now you’re seeing children with disabilities are actually included in programs, and I think that’s a big change.”
The Special Olympics were founded in large part due to the efforts of Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the sister of late President John F. Kennedy. The first Special Olympics games were held at Soldier Field, Chicago, in 1968, and the program is now active in more than 170 countries.