By Christopher Park
La Habra Journal
La Habra police personnel helped Red Robin customers with their orders last Saturday for the Tip-a-Cop event, accepting tips and donations that go directly to help fund the OC Special Olympics.
Civilian employees, sworn officers and even the athletes took part in the event, going from table to table, taking a few orders from customers while informing them of the cause for the event.
“Every time I’ve participated, it’s been very well-received and a lot of fun.” said Cindy Knapp, Bureau Manager.
The Tip-a-Cop event is something that has been ongoing with several restaurants and this marks the first time that the event has been affiliated with Red Robin, Knapp said.
The athletes joining the event were gold medalists and have won plenty more. Athlete attendees included Robert Valsquez, Leighann Manzo and Keith Jaramillo, all of whom have swam for the OC Sharks and have won dozens upon dozens of other medals.
“They’ve got a lot.” said Christian Valdez, one of the caretakers at the event. Valdez ballparked the number of the medal count at around the high 30s or low 40s.
“They’ve been doing this for many years, so they get a lot.” he added.
The event also offered a unique opportunity for the police and the public to interact with each other in a more casual relaxed setting, allowing for a greater understanding between both parties.
“You’re just trying to personalize it,” said Jerry Price, La Habra’s Acting Chief of Police “Have a personal conversation and hopefully develop a rapport so it goes towards our community and policing philosophy of building those relationships within the community.”
Customers unaware of the event were taken by slight surprise as officers approached their tables, but once the confusion settled, customers were receptive to the event.
“Having an officer approach your table while you’re eating makes them a little taken aback at first, but as soon as they understand they have good time and I think they like telling us to go get their drinks,” said Michael Constanzo, Detective “It’s a little bit of a change for them.”
“I was in the Junior Olympics when growing up,” said Alfonzo Abayon, a customer and donor on Saturday. “For underprivileged kids I think it’s a good idea to try to make their quality of life a little bit better.”
Donations will be used to offset the costs in athlete participation, including covering the costs of uniforms, supplies and transportation when athletes are sent to regional events. It’s also used to cover the separate dorms for the athletes, much like the Olympic Villages acting as a space for Olympians when participating every four years.
The Tip-a-Cop event has been going for 26 years, raising as much as $500,000 in Southern California alone. This is the first time for Tip-a-Cop to be affiliated with Red Robins and the goal is to raise $1 million across the 400 Red Robins nationwide.