Annapolis police will trade in their handcuffs and badges for Red Robin burgers and aprons this Saturday as part of a national fundraiser for the Special Olympics.
"It's really something that once you do it you kind of get addicted to it," said Sergeant Beth Nelson, the event coordinator for Annapolis police. "You see these athletes ... and it's something that becomes near and dear to your heart."
The annual Tip-A-Cop event launched seven years ago as a partnership between Red Robin and the Law Enforcement Torch Run campaign, which holds a series of relay runs and special events to fundraise for the Special Olympics.
“With the help of participating law enforcement officials and the generosity of our guests who have made donations, we have provided more than $2 million to Special Olympics programs across the country,” said Red Robin president Eric Houseman in a press release.
Maryland Red Robins raised more than $20,000 in 2011, and Linda Ellingswoth, a spokeswoman for Special Olympics Maryland, said she hopes to break that record this year.
"We expect to grow each year," Ellingswoth said. "I think we have more locations that are participating this year, and a lot more involvement from law enforcement overall."
The charity works year-round in the Free State to put on more than 30 events that include a variety of Olympic-type sports for persons eight years of age and older with intellectual disabilities, Ellingswoth said.
About 15 Annapolis officers plan to serve food and bus tables at Red Robin located at Westfield Annapolis Mall from 11 a.m to 11 p.m. on Saturday. All their "tips" will go Special Olympics Maryland.
"We shadow the actual servers, and we let people know up front that your tip is not for our good service," Nelson said. "We are going to get the drinks out and the fries out as best we can, but we're not as good the actual servers."
In addition to Annapolis, 380 Red Robin restaurants in 39 states will participate on Saturday. All Maryland Red Robins will donate a portion of Saturday's proceeds, but only seven locations will have officers serving burgers. In addition to Annapolis, police will be at locations in Columbia, Bowie, Bel Air, Germantown, Owings Mills and Waldorf.
Nelson said that this is the department's third year participating, and many of the officers who volunteered have served all three years.
She said, "You work it once and you're hooked."