Sometimes they protect, sometimes they serve

Cops wait tables, sponsor torch run for Special Olympics fundraiser

By Krista Allen
Navajo Times

TUBA CITY, April 25, 2013

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(Times photo – Krista Allen)

TOP: Runners endured more than 29 miles from Coalmine Canyon to the U.S. Highway 89 junction during the 5th annual Navajo Nation Law Enforcement Torch Run on Saturday.

SECOND FROM TOP: Thirty-two individuals from across the reservation participated in the 5th annual Navajo Nation Law Enforcement Torch Run on Saturday afternoon that initially started at the Veterans Memorial Park in Window Rock.

M ore than 25 first responders gave a whole new meaning to "protect and serve" on April 17 when they volunteered four hours of their time to work at the Hogan Restaurant and at the Tuuvi Café for the annual Tip-A-Cop fundraiser. "It was a new experience to serve people," said Officer Lucy Dan of the Tuba City Police District, who traded in her handcuffs and badge for an apron. "We had people that were shocked when they walked in. They were like, 'Is this for real?'"

In fact, they were "for real."

"Some of them were actually serving (customers at their tables)," said Larry Curtis, the Navajo Nation Special Olympics director, who was involved in serving beverages and food to patrons. "It was nice."

"They see you in a different kind of hat," said Ranger Officer Fred Davis of the Navajo Nation Department of Resource Enforcement. "They'll see you defending the streets and now you're over here serving them, so it's a different kind of feeling."

For the past five years, the Navajo Nation area Special Olympics program has been increasing awareness and raising funds for the Special Olympics Arizona, also known as SOAZ, a sports organization for adults and children with intellectual disabilities.

Tip-A-Cop events are one of the main fundraisers, in which first responders assist with waiting tables and collect tips to go toward covering expenses for participants in the Special Olympics.

Curtis said that the Navajo Nation Department of Public Safety usually arranges the event at Quality Inn Restaurant in Window Rock. But this year, the Tuba City District organized the event raising a total of $909.14.

"I'm very appreciative that the (Tuba City Police District) put this together," said Curtis. "It was awesome. They did a good job. There was a lot of involvement and they helped each other."

"There were people that really, really appreciated it...that we were helping the kids out," said Davis.

The Special Olympics began in 1962 when Eunice Kennedy Shriver, a member of one of the most prominent families in American politics, put together a summer day camp at her home in Maryland for individuals with developmental challenges to create positive peer relationships and to help develop motor and social skills.

Shriver's idea quickly took off as the first International Special Olympics took place at Soldier Field in Chicago with 1,000 athletes from Canada and the U.S.

Today, the Special Olympics offers 22 sports, 170 programs in 15 regional areas, and five statewide competitions for more than 14,000 athletes and 11,000 volunteers annually.

First responders also dedicated themselves to helping SOAZ by participating in the 5th annual Navajo Nation Law Enforcement Torch Run on Saturday in Coalmine Canyon where a total of 32 people, including a young cross-country runner from Moenkopi Day School, took part in the event.

The torch run is an intra-state run that takes place every spring, starting from Veterans Memorial Park in Window Rock to the U.S. 89 junction, covering more than 165 miles through the Navajo and Hopi reservations.

A Special Olympics torch, decorated with beads and colorful feathers of a Macaw, is handed off between the participants. Each runner donned a blue and yellow ribbon, the official Boston Marathon colors, in support of the victims of the recent marathon bombings in eastern Massachusetts.

Randolph Curley, the outstanding runner from Tonalea-Redlake, Ariz., kept a steady pace ahead of the other runners, who were trailing approximately one mile behind.

Near Moenkopi, the witty Hopi Chairman LeRoy Shingoitewa, his wife Mavis, and former chief of staff Curtis Honanie all cheered on the runners.

"Kwa'kwah! Ahéhee!" shouted Shingoitewa and Honanie.

"Asquali," added Mavis.

Shingoitewa says in the Hopi language, the words Kwak'kwah and Asquali mean encouragement, although they are usually translated to 'thank you' in English. Men can only use "kwa'kwah" while women can only use "asquali."

After 19 miles of concrete terrain, runners finally stopped at the Tuuvi Travel Center where they took a short break before bicycling 10.24 miles to the U.S. Highway 89 junction west of Tuba City. The torch run ended just before sunset.

"What we ran was leg (No. 7)," said leg coordinator Sgt. Samantha Yazzie, a criminal investigator with the Navajo Police Department. "It's all for the Special Olympics."

Yazzie said the money raised is mainly used for the Diné athletes to attend the games, which will take place this year at Mesa Community College, scheduled to begin today, April 25 until April 27.

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