OAK BROOK – Oak Brook police officer Erica Huff wasn’t serving up a side of safety March 28, but rather, a tray of food as she helped out with a Special Olympics fundraiser at Labriola Bakery Cafe in Oak Brook.
“I give them a lot of credit because they make it look very easy and I definitely have a new found respect for anyone who works in that industry because it’s tough,” Huff said. “I tried carrying some of those trays and they were heavy.”
Huff was one of several Oak Brook police officers who took part in the Tip-A-Cop fundraiser for Special Olympics of Illinois.
The department’s 2014 kickoff campaign took place at Labriola Bakery Cafe, where officers worked alongside restaurant employees, greeting guests and serving food.
In addition to the gratuities given to the wait staff of Labriola, restaurant guests could tip their Oak Brook police representative in the form of a monetary donation to Special Olympics.
“It was a blast,” Huff said. “Labriola has always been really generous in just opening up the doors to us and letting us come in and just go with it, so it went really well.”
The event raised more than $1,200, Huff said.
Labriola has hosted four Tip-A-Cops over the years, but Oak Brook police fundraising for the Special Olympics goes “way back.”
“Every year we’ve always participated; it’s just in more recent years we’ve really stepped up our fundraising efforts,” she said. “One of the things Chief [James] Kruger is passionate about is Special Olympics. So he came into the department he said, ‘I’m very passionate about this, let’s step up our efforts.’ ”
Fundraising began in late February when Oak Brook Police Officer George Peterson participated in Chicago’s Super Polar Plunge. Unlike the traditional dives into freezing water, Peterson jumped into Lake Michigan every hour for 24 hours to amass donations.
“It was probably the most uncomfortable thing I’ve ever done in my entire life, and I can’t wait until next year,” Peterson said.
While there was a heated tent to warm participants following each plunge, Peterson said it was easier if he didn’t fully dry off or change clothes.
“If I just kind of drip dried instead of going hot cold, hot cold, it was less of a shock on the system,” he said.
That cold endeavor paid off as Peterson was able to raise more than $2,800.
“When you’re sitting there frozen, and it’s three or four in the morning and you realize why you’re doing it, it makes the discomfort a lot more reasonable,” he said.
Last year, Oak Brook Police Department was able to raise more than $15,000; this year, the police want to reach the $20,000 plateau.
“We’re off to a really good start,” Huff said. “That Polar Plunge really started us off on the right foot.”