Departments Compete In Cop On Top

Courant Community

Police officers from the Avon and Simsbury police departments held a dueling Cop on Top competition, at Simsbury Commons on Oct. 29.

Proceeds will sponsor programs and the Torch Relay of Special Olympics Connecticut.

Officers from both Avon and Simsbury were hoisted high in buckets of ladder trucks, provided by each town's fire department. Heavy rains and winds pelted Simsbury Officer Laurel Harrington and Avon Officer Erin Connole and Capt. Dave Bourgoin.

The officers began the competition at 9 a.m., determined to stay aloft for seven hours, despite weather reports of possible flash floods. At the end of each hour, the money was counted in the donation buckets for each team.

The ladder was gradually lowered on the hour for the side that collected the most money. Drivers pulled up to the shops and dropped money in the respected containers.

Jeff Veneziano, of the Special Olympics Connecticut, said the team's goal was to "get to the bottom first," under the dry tents below.

"With the rain, we'll probably bring them both down slowly," he said. "Everyone is coming out and it's been a great day so far."

The event will also help fund the Torch Run, a three-day run leading up to the Special Olympics summer games in June. Police departments across Connecticut hold fundraisers year-round to sponsor the athletes.

Besides Cop on Top, departments also hold Tip a Cop, Coin Drops, and other events.

"This is one of our biggest ones, Cop on Top," Veneziano said.

He praised the efforts of the Avon and Simsbury police officers who cheerfully braved the bad weather.

"They come out all year long, raising money for us. Without them and all the other cops around the state, we couldn't do what we do," he said. "We're so thankful, especially on a rainy day like this."

Daniel Wieing, of Avon, a Special Olympics athlete, said he competes in basketball and enjoys the "sportsmanship, fun and teamwork." He cherishes the friendships that have evolved through Special Olympics over the years.

He came to the Commons to support the police officers and to collect donations. Wieing competes in soccer at the summer games.

"Friendship is more than anything, and the people," he said,

Harrington, who spoke by cellphone, said she was excited to participate in Cop on Top and support the Special Olympics Torch Run. She said both departments were looking for a friendly competition for the cause.

"A little rain never hurt anyone," Harrington said.

While an umbrella afforded Harrington some protection, the rain and wind picked up as she spoke. She was pleased the departments joined forces for Special Olympics.

"That's the end goal here," she said.

Lauren Devin, who serves with Harrington, said the donations remained steady for the first hour, a good sign that her fellow officer would inch closer to the ground.

"We're grateful for everyone who has come out, considering the bad weather we're having. We're still having some good foot traffic," Devin said.

She added the officers' participation "spoke to their dedication" for Special Olympics and to the communities they serve.

"I'm happy to be here to support them," she said.

Nick Connole, the husband of Avon Officer Erin Connole, kept in contact with her through texts and occasional waves of support.

"She's an amazing person. She has a personal connection. Her cousin is an athlete," Connole said. "She will do anything to raise money for a good cause."

He added police officers and firefighters are used to rough conditions.

"She is willing to go the extra mile for everything. Very supportive," he said. "She asked me if I was having fun down here in the rain and if I needed anything."

On Nov. 18 and 19, Special Olympics Connecticut will host the 2017 Unified Sports Holiday Classic. Athletes will compete in bowling, basketball, volleyball, and powerlifting, held at venues across the region.

For more information, visit the organization's website at www.soct.org.

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