Tip-A-Cop benefits Special Olympics

LAKEWOOD — Many patrons of the Red Robin at Lakewood Crossing April 18 were surprised to find their meals being served by wait-staff who already work demanding jobs.

“I’m interning here,” Marysville Municipal Court Judge Fred Gillings told Mount Vernon residents June Olson, Sue Jones and Julie Scott, as he served them drinks. “It’s my first day on the job.”

Gillings joined more than two-dozen members of the Marysville Police Department in raising funds for Special Olympics through the annual “Tip-A-Cop” fundraiser, which marked its third year at the Lakewood Crossing Red Robin, and its eighth year of participation from the Marysville Police Department.

Patricia Duemell, an evidence technician with the Marysville Police Department, explained that active-duty and retired police officers joined department clerical staff and volunteers, all of whom split up their shared eight-hour stint as wait-staff into two shifts. These “celebrity waiters” from local law enforcement welcomed generous tips from the patrons they served, with all of the funds raised going toward Special Olympics. She hoped that this year’s “Tip-A-Cop” earnings would equal last year’s estimated take of roughly $4,000.

Marysville Police Sgt. Doug Lee is, like many of his fellow officers, an old hand at “Tip-A-Cop,” with this year marking his fifth as a “celebrity waiter” at the event.

“This is just one of the things I’m involved in,” Lee said. “It’s good to give back to the community, and I enjoy interacting with the customers.”

Lee laughed as he admitted that the experience of working as a member of the Red Robin wait-staff, even for just a few hours, is exhausting but well worth the effort.

“I’ve found out that I’m not as young as I used to be,” Lee said. “I have a tough time keeping up with the servers here, but I do the best I can. People are receptive to why we’re here. It’s for a good cause and they dig down deep to help us out.”

Lee touted the Marysville Police Department’s support of a number of Special Olympics fundraisers besides the “Tip-A-Cop,” and deemed Special Olympics an essential part of connecting those with special needs to their communities.

“This is a great event,” said Marysville Police Chief Rick Smith, who’s been volunteering as a “celebrity waiter” at “Tip-A-Cop” events since he was working in Vancouver 10 years ago. “Red Robin has done a very good thing by supporting Special Olympics. It’s a great partnership with law enforcement, and it’s all for the athletes. It’s for the Special Olympians, so they can compete. That’s why we do it.”

Smith joined Lee in acknowledging the hard work and multitasking ability of the Red Robin servers.

“It’s a tough job and it’s constantly just go, go, go,” Smith said. “There’s a healthy respect from law enforcement officers when they help out and do this job.”

Mitchell Billmeyer, assistant general manager of the Lakewood Crossing Red Robin, doesn’t mind the law enforcement officers’ occasional stumbles one bit.

“We enjoy having them as our guests and getting their perspective on what we do,” Billmeyer said. “Every year, we’re excited to be part of this event. Everyone who works here gets pumped up for it.”

Although all the patrons interviewed shared the enthusiasm of their servers for the event, most of them weren’t expecting it.

“We didn’t even know this was going on today,” said Arlington resident Tanya Klein, who joined her husband, Jesse, and son, Trevor, for lunch at the Red Robin April 18. “It’s very interesting to see a cop serving us. It’s really lively. It seems like a lot of fun.”

Marysville resident Glenn Apacible took his wife, Martissa, and children, Kiana and Glen, to lunch at the Red Robin April 18, and appreciated the cause that “Tip-A-Cop” supports, even though he hadn’t been aware of the event either.

“It’s our first time at one of these,” Apacible said. “It was unique and fun, seeing these guys in uniform serving us.”

Gillings has a personal connection to the event. While he’s quick to turn attention away from his own participation in “Tip-A-Cop,” and onto the Marysville Police officers and staff who volunteer for the event, one of his daughters, Emily, is a special-needs child whom he and his wife, Diane, hope can benefit from the outlet that Special Olympics provides.

“Each of our other kids has their own thing that they can do, so it’s hard for her,” said Diane Gillings, who cited Emily’s fondness for basketball. “We enjoy coming here for a meal. Not only is it for a good cause, but it allows others to see that families with disabled members can do regular things.”

For more information on “Tip-A-Cop,” visit the Special Olympics Washington Web site

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