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'Tip-a-Cop' enlists police as waiters
SMOKEY POINT Many patrons of the Smokey Point Red Robin restaurant were surprised to see their waiters wearing a slightly different uniform, and police officers from Arlington, Marysville and Lake Stevens got a chance to walk in somebody else's shoes, all on behalf of charity.
The annual "Tip-a-Cop" event raises funds for the Law Enforcement Torch Run, which benefits Special Olympics athletes statewide, and April 12 marked the second Tip-a-Cop at the Smokey Point Red Robin, as well as the first attended by members of the Arlington Police Department.
"There are a lot of worthwhile charities out there for the community to get behind," said an apron-clad Arlington Police Chief John Gray, as he bused tables. "This is the only one that law enforcement as a whole embraces, though, because it helps out some of the most vulnerable people in society, which is an extension of law enforcement's mission to help those who are vulnerable."
The Arlington Police Department has raised funds for Special Olympics through sales of Krispy Kreme donuts in years past, but this fundraiser gave Gray a newfound appreciation for the demands of working as restaurant wait-staff.
"I love my job," Gray laughed. "I wouldn't want to do this one."
Patricia Duemmell is an evidence technician with the Marysville Police Department and the coordinator for this year's Law Enforcement Torch Run. She estimated that this year's Tip-a-Cop has raised at least $3,800, since as of press time, they were continuing to count, and receive, more donations.
"I've been doing this for eight years," said Duemmell, pausing only briefly between taking drink orders. "Every year, it just gets better. It's so rewarding to meet the Special Olympics athletes, as well as fellow officers from across the state. I could use a foot-rub afterwards, though," she laughed.
Lake Stevens Police Sgt. Robert Miner was on his feet even more than many of the other officers in attendance, conducting pedestrian traffic in particularly crowded parts of the restaurant with mock-seriousness, and racing from table to table to fetch younger patrons balloons, only some of which he popped.
"It's a blast," said Miner of his first time at Tip-a-Cop. "The kids seem to enjoy it when I act like a jerk. Everybody's been really happy to donate, and being a waiter has a whole different set of responsibilities. I've only been serving drinks and I'm already tired, but it's all for a cause."
Marysville Municipal Court Judge Fred Gillings was on hand to wait and bus tables, although he preferred to focus attention on the contributions of others, including the police departments and the Red Robin chain.
"It's great that Red Robin has supported the Special Olympics in this way," Gillings said to Barry and Stan Brown, as they finished their meal. "They've really let us run wild in here."
"You're the cops," laughed Stan Brown, who had traveled from Lynden to meet his son Barry, who lives in Federal Way. "Who's going to stop you?"
Like the Browns, many Red Robin patrons were unaware of Tip-a-Cop until they found themselves face-to-face with uniformed police officers at their tables, but all those interviewed enjoyed the experience.
"We come here regularly anyway," said Marysville resident Aaron Burger, who arrived with his children in tow. "It freaked us out a little bit at first, but it was fun."
"I just came here for the fish and chips," said Bonnie Puhrmann, who maintains homes in both Smokey Point and Tulalip. "It's a great way for them to collect money. It's nice to talk to cops when they're not stopping you on the side of the road," she laughed.
"It's better to have them serving drinks than serving tickets," agreed Arlington's Darin Rathert.
Patrons Sarah Mines and Amy Mullis were likewise pleasantly surprised by the event, since they live in Vancouver, B.C., while the Osmanbhoy family of Redmond had merely made an unscheduled stop on their way to the Tulip Festival.
Lake Stevens Sgt. Julie Jamison was unable to commit to a shift for Tip-a-Cop, since she was attending her brother's birthday party later that day, but she and her mother Terri attended briefly, as patrons, to show their support.
"I've done fundraisers for Special Olympics in the past," said Julie Jamison. "They can expect a big tip from me."
"It's nice to see the police chiefs here, too," said Terri Jamison.
While Arlington Police Officer Anthony Davis was able to avoid wait-staff duty, he and his K-9 Bailey were on hand outside the Red Robin, delighting kids and adults alike.
"Once you get to the Special Olympics itself, it's totally amazing," said Davis, who has attended in previous years. "You see all the smiles on the faces of those kids, and you realize, that's why we're here."