HYATTSVILLE – An old-time stereotype rang true last weekend, as cops and donuts paired up to raise money for a good a cause.
Police officers, city officials, Olympiads and Dunkin’ Donuts all came together to raise money for the Special Olympics during the annual Cops on Rooftops event.
The Hyattsville city police hosted the event, but officers from surrounding jurisdictions and the county also joined in on the rooftop-sitting, donut-eating, fundraising fun. For two days, from 6 a.m. until late evening, the officers sat on the roof of the Dunkin’ Donuts on Queens Chapel Road with a fishing pole and a bucket and asked for donations for the Special Olympics. They raised approximately $6,000.
Hyattsville Police Chief Douglas Holland, who helped coordinate the event with Sgt. Suzie Johnson and Officer Mark Filuta, said the officers have hosted the benefit for five years. Holland became aware of the Cops on Rooftops events through his involvement with the Law Enforcement Torch Run.
“In Maryland, the Law Enforcement torch run began around the mid 80s and there is an executive counsel and I happen to be a member of the Maryland Law Enforcement Torch Run executive counsel,” Holland said. “I was aware of (Cops on Rooftops) and they did it one year in Maryland in several locations. So we initiated it in Hyattsville four years ago.”
Holland, whose daughter Desiree competes in swimming and cycling at competitions, said there are two main reasons the officers put together the event: raising awareness and fundraising.
“Number one is to raise awareness. We get in uniforms and sit on the roof and people become aware of that. They ask ‘hey, what are you doing?’ So we get a chance to talk a little bit about the Special Olympics, the awareness piece of it, and how it changes lives for Special Olympics Athletes and for their families. It gives us a chance to correct some misconceptions about Special Olympics,” he said.
Holland said many people think Special Olympics only happen once a year, but the athletes compete and train year-round. The athletes compete at zero cost to themselves or their families.
“Obviously the competitions that are held, it costs money to do that,” Holland said. “Just this past year in Maryland, and I'm talking about worldwide in approximately 80 countries, the state of Maryland placed No. 5 in the world in funds raised for the Special Olympics.”
Last year Maryland raised $2.6 million.
This year, both Sgt. Johnson and Officer Filuta volunteered to coordinate Cops on Rooftops, which included raffles, t-shirt sales and, of course, donuts. Before he joined the Hyattsville police, Filuta worked with Special Olympics, which is why he volunteered to help with Cops on Rooftops.
“It's always good to give back to the community. I know everyone always sees police officers as people who are out there doing their jobs and it is fun seeing us out here in a fun role interacting with citizens. I think a lot of people get a chuckle seeing us up on the rooftop with a fishing rod and a bucket,” Filuta said.
Johnson said she has dedicated her entire career to helping others and to helping the community.
“I just like doing things for the community, these kids are special, these athletes are special and they need all the support that we can give them to do their competing that they do every year,” Johnson said. “We have gold medalists in our city so we have to keep supporting them. It's the only reason why I do it.”
Abby Reznek, a resident of Berwyn Heights, is one of those gold medalists. Reznek competes in swimming and power lifting in the Special Olympics and is a dedicated athlete. She earned her gold medal in swimming at the Special Olympics World Games in Los Angeles in 2015.
Reznek said she appreciates the opportunity to compete because it helps keep her fit and gives her the opportunity to see new places and participate in special events.
“If it wasn't for the Special Olympics I wouldn't have the opportunity to be in the Rose Bowl parade and all these other opportunities like winning all these medals or going to Worlds,” she said.
Reznek’s mother Karen said Reznek began swimming on the team in 2007, after years of trying to find the local Special Olympics.
“The really incredible thing that Special Olympics did for her, that I will be eternally grateful for, is she walked into her first practice and the coach referred to the team members as athletes. Well, her sister used to be a competitive gymnast, so Abby knew athletes work really hard and train for many hours and are always striving to get better, so she started training really hard and training for many, many hours and was always trying to get better and turned herself into an athlete by anybody's definition of athlete,” Karen said. “It has been such a benefit for her confidence, her health, just her general stability, swimming just means so much to her and helps her in so many ways and she's developed such a strong community through Special Olympics, through the people that she swims with almost every day at the local pool, it's just meant the world to her.”
Karen said she is thankful to anyone who raises money for athletes like her daughter.
“I'm so grateful for anybody that works to make Special Olympics available to as many athletes as need it,” she said. “It just warms my heart that they do this.”