Hawaii County Police Officers from left Jeff Harai, Rollin Rabara, Mike Thompson and Renee Morinaka flash shakas to customers below at the Cop on Top annnual fundraiser for the West Hawaii Special Olympics at the Kona Walmart on Friday
Sandie DealCruz left receives a donation from Asher Finuliar 2 as his father Giann watches at the Cop on Top annual fundraiser for the West Hawaii Special Olympics at the Kona Walmart on Friday
Hawaii County Police Officer Jeff Hirai left shouts out to Kona Walmart customers from the top of scaffolding, soliciting donations for the Cop on Top annnual fundraiser for the West Hawaii Special Olympics on Friday
Big Island police officers and Special Olympics West Hawaii athletes and volunteers kicked off their annual Cop on Top event Friday morning in Kailua-Kona with hopes of securing $15,000 to support local Special Olympians.
In just the first few hours more than $1,200 was raised and by midafternoon Friday, just before rush hour, donations totalled more than $3,300, said Special Olympics West Hawaii Area Director Sandie DelaCruz, who took over the nonprofit’s operations Sept. 1. While the goal is to raise $15,000, the organization hopes to reach $20,000 by Sunday afternoon.
“It stays 100 percent in West Hawaii supporting these athletes with training, competition, uniforms and equipment,” she explained. “We’re making tons thanks to the community.”
Hawaii Police Department officers and Special Olympics West Hawaii athletes and volunteers will collect donations today and Sunday at the Kona Walmart. Today, donations can be dropped off at the entrance from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.; and on Sunday from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m.
The annual Cop on Top event also features for-donation games and photos with Auto Body Hawaii’s “Big Red Wagon.”
All money raised during the three-day event supports about 30 athletes who participate in Special Olympics West Hawaii, which spans Kohala, Kona and Ka‘u, DelaCruz said. It helps cover the cost of equipment, training and certifying coaches, and traveling to compete on the other islands.
DelaCruz said it cost her organization about $8,000 to compete in an August event on Oahu, one in which not all SOWH athletes participated. The organization’s annual budget runs about $40,000 to $50,000, making the Cop on Top fundraiser and others, including Fueling Dreams and the Barboza Torch Run very important.
The community’s support for Special Olympics West Hawaii athletes is important to Relyn Shook, who moved to Kailua-Kona from Oahu about seven months ago. At age 32, she said she’s been part of Special Olympics for 20 years and holds many medals in an array of sports. About a dozen of her gold, silver and bronze medallions hung from her neck Friday as she collected donations.
“Special Olympics (West Hawaii) has helped me go after my dreams. I was told since I was 11 years old (that) I couldn’t do anything,” she said. “But, it doesn’t matter — as long as you follow your dreams and go for your dreams. Whatever it is, whatever you want to be you can be no matter what they tell you.”
Shook’s next feat: to be named Special Olympics Athlete of the Year.
“I can show the world that I can get Athlete of the Year, and I’m determined to get it,” she said.
Special Olympics, modeled after the Olympic Games, provides year-round training and competitive sports for physically or mentally challenged athletes. Teams compete in games on the Big Island and Maui to qualify for state games on Oahu, where Special Olympics athletes compete for medals.
Ray Donager, a bowler with Special Olympics West Hawaii and an eight-year employee of Walmart, expressed his thanks to the community for supporting athletes like himself.
“I enjoy the sports and the support,” he said after bringing carts back to the store. “I love it, the great friends and the sports.”
For more information, to donate, volunteer or participate,visit sowh.org.