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New Heights: Cop on Top Returns to Raise Funds And Awareness For Special Olympics Hawai‘i

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Cop on Top returned Thursday, Aug. 25, to the Hilo Walmart after a two-year hiatus because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The event, which raises funds and awareness for Special Olympics Hawai‘i, continues today (Friday, Aug. 26) and Saturday, Aug. 27, at the Walmart stores in Hilo and Kona. (Nathan Christophel/Big Island Now)

It takes dedication, effort and sweat — and they have all of them in abundance.

Customers of Walmart and the Waiākea Center in Hilo on Thursday, Aug. 25, were greeted by a site they haven’t seen in two years. Atop 15-foot scaffolding, off-duty officers of the Hawai‘i Police Department collected donations while athletes and others did the same from below to take raising funds and awareness for Special Olympics Hawai‘i to new heights as part of Cop on Top.

Officer Amy Omaya sits atop 15-foot scaffolding Thursday, Aug. 25, on the first day of Cop on Top at the Hilo Walmart. (Nathan Christophel/Big Island Now)

The event, which runs through Saturday, returns this year after a hiatus because of the COVID-19 pandemic and all those involved are dedicated to making the 2022 installment a success. Their effort was apparent by the sweat they shed not only because of a hot summer Thursday, the event’s first day, but also from the work they did.

By 4:30 p.m., they had raised a little more than $5,000, according to Heather Dansdill, East Hawai‘i Special Olympics area director; they were on their way, hopeful of reaching a goal of $15,000 throughout the three days of Cop on Top.

“That would be amazing if we could do that,” Dansdill told Big Island Now on Thursday.

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Donations collected from Cop on Top directly benefit Special Olympics Hawai‘i and its efforts to provide year-round sports, health and wellness programs for athletes of all ages with intellectual disabilities, including opportunities to participate in regional and national competitions. Since 2001, Cop on Top has raised more than $3.4 million for Special Olympics Hawai‘i athletes statewide.

Cop on Top plays an important role for Special Olympics Hawai‘i and those it serves.

“There are so many reasons why it’s important,” Dansdill said.

She said No. 1, Cop on Top helps Special Olympics athletes travel to area games and state competitions.

“It enables our athletes to get to O‘ahu for activities,” Dansdill said. “We’re hoping to go to Maui for some activities in the future, which is kind of exciting. Even to go to Kona, buses are expensive. So it’s just to get our athletes where they need to be and to make sure they’re safe and comfortable during and while they’re at the events.”

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The money is also used for other purposes, including purchasing uniforms for the athletes.

“Special Olympics is 100% free for all of our athletes — everything is included,” Dansdill said. “If they need golf clubs, we get them for them. If they need supplies, we purchase it. If they need uniforms, it’s done; snacks, water.”

Hilo Walmart donated $1,500 Thursday, Aug. 25, during the first day of Cop on Top. (Courtesy photo)

She said the event has many donors from throughout the community, including private businesses such as Walmart and Ola Brew, both of which donated Thursday. And, of course, the Hawai‘i Police Department is one of the biggest supporters.

“Hawai‘i Police Department really donates a ton of their time to help us raise the funds,” Dansdill said.

Donating that time is no sweat for the officers involved. They know how important it is.

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Officer Amy Omaya, who is assigned to HPD Community Relations, which she said is directly linked with Special Olympics, has participated in Cop on Top a couple of times. It’s the athletes who keep her coming back.

“Once you get involved with these athletes and you see how much joy and excitement that athletics bring to them, plus partnering with officers, which they just adore, it’s just addictive and you just want to do more and more for them … ,” Omaya told Big Island Now on Thursday after coming down from the scaffolding following a full day of raising funds. “So I just want to come back and see their faces. They’re just awesome to work with.”

This year marks a milestone for Cop on Top — two decades of supporting Special Olympics Hawai‘i athletes.

“We invite the public to come out and show their support for these dedicated officers who generously give of their free time to raise funds and awareness for our programs,” Special Olympics Hawai‘i President and CEO Dan Epstein said in a press release earlier this month.

Cop on Top continues from 8 a.m.-8 p.m. today (Friday, Aug. 26) and 8 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 27. HPD officers are also participating at the Kailua-Kona Walmart. There will be giveaways, prizes and much more at both sites, and Special Olympics Hawai‘i will also be giving away visors, caps and T-shirts to those who donate.

For more information about Cop on Top, click here.

For more information about Special Olympics Hawai‘i, click here. You can also follow Special Olympics Hawai‘i on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Nathan Christophel
Nathan Christophel has more than 20 years of experience in journalism, starting out as a reporter and working his way up to become a copy editor and page designer, most recently at the Hawaii Tribune-Herald in Hilo.
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