04/29/11 — Police take to roof for Special Olympics

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Police take to roof for Special Olympics

By Gary Popp
Published in News on April 29, 2011 1:46 PM

Dwayne Bevell of the Goldsboro Police Department has worked to raise money and support for the Special Olympics for nearly eight years by participating in the North Carolina Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics.

This year Bevell is for the first time taking a leadership role.

This weekend, he will take part in the department's "Cop on Top of a Doughnut Shop" this weekend at Krispy Kreme on East Ash Street, vowing to stay on the roof of the restaurant for 40 hours to raise money and awareness for the state's Special Olympics.

The public is invited to donate money by getting their car washed and purchasing a chance to dunk-a-cop taking place on site Saturday afternoon. Special Olympics hats and T-shirts will also be on sale.

Bevell said there is a natural harmony between law enforcement officials and Special Olympic athletes.

"We usually see the nastier side of life in the work we do," Bevell said. "Through the Special Olympics we get to see the smiles and a different way we can help instead of dealing with criminals and the darker side of society."

Bevell said there is a lot of joy from the social factor of Special Olympics events.

"The interaction with the athletes and seeing the athletes look forward to being around police officers -- it's great," Bevell said.

The Torch Run program involves law enforcement agencies across the state that raises money through a variety of events including golf tournaments, motorcycle rides, polar bear plunges and road races.

Recent Torch Run events in Wayne County included "Tip-A-Cop" where local lawmen worked at La Paz restaurant to earn tips from customers raising over $3,000 during a lunch and dinner service in February.

Bevell said the events are successful, largely because of the support the community members.

"The community is just awesome, they are the ones that make it happen," Bevell said. "A lot of people know someone with a disability. They see where the money is going and they see a need for it as well. The things they did at La Paz, I mean, I would have never had guessed they would have been so gracious."

Bevell said the work being done in the Goldsboro Police Department is a concerted effort.

"The officers in the police department who take part jump in whole wholeheartedly," Bevell said.

Bevell said about 20 officers take part in Special Olympics activities each year, but a core of around six to eight officers are especially active.

"Even if hesitant at first, when most officers get out there they really enjoy it," Bevell said. "Once you get officers to volunteer their time and do things like this and they see what is going on and the interaction, it is something they enjoy doing."

Bevell said local efforts to raise money are the result of not only officers with Goldsboro police, but also airmen from Seymour Johnson and probation and parole workers.

One of the largest supporters of Special Olympics at probation and parole is Bevell's wife, Chief Probation Parole Officer Heather Bevell.

"It is extremely rewarding when you know you have an impact on someone else's life," said Mrs. Bevell. "If every sporting event had the sportsmanship of the Special Olympics, the world would be a better place. The athletes and their families are so appreciative."

While the spirit of the athletes and their supporters in the community remain high, there has been a decline in state funding.

"Funds have been diminished and it is even more important for the community to come together and give so that our athletes can continue their training and sports events," Mrs. Bevell said.

Keith Fishburne, president of Special Olympics North Carolina, is acutely aware of the recent reduction in state funding.

"Since 2004 we have received a grant from the state of North Carolina through the Department of Health and Human Services, and it has usually been at least $100,000 and some years it has been as much as $250,000," Fishburne said. "Unfortunately, this year with all the reductions (Gov. Bev. Purdue) has had to make, she took Special Olympics out of the budget of DHHS."

Fishburne said that N.C. Special Olympics has felt a decline in donations from other sources, not only the state. "Donations have dropped from everybody, so we have had to make adjustments of how we raise money," he said.

Fishburne said about 150 law enforcement agencies participate in supporting the state's Special Olympics.

"The law enforcement community is so valuable to Special Olympics because they raise important funds, and they raise public awareness that otherwise would not be done," he said.

"What happens in each community is so important to our mission. We don't ever want the athletes to have to pay to participate."

Because of reduced funding in recent years, Fishburne said organizers have gotten creative to reduce their costs, while trying not to minimize activities for the athletes.

To curtail travel costs, Fishburne explained that centralized state competitions have been cut, and the state has been split into east and west zones with large competitions in Charlotte and Jacksonville. There has also been a move to more single-day events that reduces the costs of overnight trips for athletes.

"The state of Special Olympics is good, but whenever we face losing something like $100,000, it presents a challenge," Fishburne said.

While the state is pondering cuts, local-level supporters are even more motivated to continue raising money for the athletes.

"Once you do it, it gets in your heart to continue to do it," Bevell said. "It gets in your soul. It is something you love to do."