Special Olympic athletes along with Lacombe Police Service (LPS) members helped serve up dinner at the Lacombe Boston Pizza over the weekend.
Cops, Pops and Pizza, hosted by the Law Enforcement Torch Run, raised funds and awareness for the over 40 local athletes taking part in Special Olympics in Central Alberta.
Dwayne Campbell, Chairman/Coach with Special Olympics, said the event is a great way for Special Olympic athletes to learn skills and interact with the community.
“It is always a good event. Very few of our athletes are able to gain employment or lengthy employment, so this is a good opportunity to get some basic skills,” he said.
“Whether they use them at home or in a role in the community where they can volunteer in the food service industry — it is good.”
Const. Jeff Hewitt Lacombe Police Service member, started volunteering with Special Olympic athletes in 2011 and has seen the influence events like this one can have on Special Olympic athletes.
“It is a great cause,” he said. “It is great for the athletes and builds a lot of confidence with them. I’ve met a lot of the athletes and I have seen a lot of them go on to get jobs because they get that confidence through serving.
“It is a great way to get them out to have some interaction with the public and the public has been very supportive.”
Campbell said the relationship Special Olympics has with LPS also allows them to grow their program.
“It is a fundraiser but the support and visibility they give us is great,” he said. “We are getting contacts in the Lacombe community and they are also involved with the schools so they may be able to help us find individuals who are not in Special Olympics to come and take part in our programs.”
Hewitt added the event is one of the most positive interactions law enforcement has with the community.
“For me personally, when I applied to get into policing they wanted a lot of volunteer work. It is something you want to continue with and for me it has been very positive working with Special Olympics. The athletes are very thankful. It is a great one for me, he said.
Currently, the athletes are training for the Provincial Games in Red Deer in February.
“We have a team of five bowlers going to that, and four of those athletes have worked here today. That is our next big event which has bowlers from across Alberta and the North West Territories. Those athletes are bowling weekly in Lacombe here, getting their practice in for those games,” Campbell said.
He added they also run swim, softball and bocce ball programs.
“We have great volunteers but at the same time we are always looking for more. It is great to get people involved, whether it is on an ongoing weekly basis or just the odd time.
“It is great to come out and get some understanding on what our group is about.”
Hewitt added, “It has been great event and I want to thank the community so much.”