Evanston Police Officer Heidi Bernhardt and School Resource Officer Grace Carmichael have been involved with and supporting Evanston’s Special Olympics athletes for “a gazillion years,” said Bernhardt.
And they proved that dedication last Friday morning, Aug. 19, when they took part in the annual Cop on Top fundraiser, renamed this year Cop on a Rooftop, raising $2,300, perhaps their best effort ever.
Assisted by multiple Special Olympics’ athletes and the lure of a free donut for anyone who contributed, untold numbers of patrons of the Dunkin’ Donuts, 1900 Dempster St., responded generously, mostly with cash but sometimes with a credit card donation.
Dunkin’ Donuts, led by store manager Sandra Malka, contributed donut coupons, free coffee and donuts to the athletes and a generous financial donation to Cop on a Rooftop.
The athletes, several of whom had won medals at the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games in Orlando, Fla., this past June, proudly wore their medals and shared their stories as patrons waited to place and pick up their orders.
Bernhardt said the athletes were the ideal ones to explain to people about the Special Olympics program and the sports they participate in throughout the year – plus they were phenomenal fundraisers.
It was a successful fundraiser for the local programs and also “a great day and a great event” as police officers talked with the public, networked with colleagues and enjoyed the community. Bernhardt said Evanston Police Department personnel, all ranks and departments, stopped by, including interim Chief Richard Eddington and members of the Evanston Fire Department.
Telecommunications Dispatcher Jesse McPhail got off her shift at 7 a.m. and drove over to help before going home. Leonard Woodson, a Special Recreation Program Manager for Evanston’s Parks and Recreation Department as well as a coach and mentor to many of the athletes, also stopped in to show his support and grab a cup of joe.
Special Olympics Illinois also sold T-shirts and hats as well as $10 raffle tickets – part of a North Shore wide fundraiser sponsored by multiple law enforcement agencies. Prizes this year include a 2022 Coleman camper and a Harley Davidson motorcycle. Contact Bernhardt for additional information. Ticket sales end Sept. 30 and the drawing is Oct. 14.
Bernhardt has been an officer with EPD for 22 years, during 19 of which she has been involved with Special Olympics. She said she knows many of the athletes personally. “I’m thankful we have the relationships we do with the athletes,” she said. “I feel blessed. I fell into this post, but there is nowhere I’d rather be.”