Photo Gallery | Sixth annual Cop on Top
PITTSFIELD — Amanda Benoit, of Pittsfield, and Paige Emerson from Dalton are best friends on and off the court thanks to Special Olympics.
The inseparable Special Olympians excel at basketball and together travel everywhere, once to California where they appeared on the late night talk show, "Jimmy Kimmel Live."
This weekend, the young ladies have teamed up to help Berkshire law enforcement agencies raise tens of thousands of dollars for "Cop on Top," so more than 600 local athletes can compete — free of charge — in Special Olympics programs and competitions.
From 9 a.m. Saturday through most of Sunday, police officers from around the county and Pittsfield firefighters took turns being perched atop the roof of Walmart at Berkshire Crossing on Hubbard Avenue in hopes of raising $55,000.
Since the annual fundraiser debuted in 2010, it has amassed more than $400,000 through monetary contributions, raffling off business-donated goods and services and the sale of "Cop on Top" apparel.
In addition, event volunteers fanned out across the Berkshire Crossing parking lots, hoping motorists would stop long enough to drop money in their five-gallon buckets.
Shoppers were also treated to food, raffle prizes and giveaways.
Event co-coordinator and Pittsfield Police investigator John Bassi, expects to reach this year's goal, in part, due to drier, warmer weather for early December in New England.
"Even before the event, we raised $14,000 with one donation from a private citizen of $2,000 and a couple of $500 ones," he said.
By 6 p.m. Saturday, the running total was pushing $32,000.
As Bassi was in "Let's Make a Deal" mode Saturday morning, doling out gift certificates in exchange for modest donations, Adams Police Chief Rick Tarsa stopped by to make a personal contribution. He also had a chance to check on his three officers who didn't hesitate to volunteer for rooftop duty.
"As soon as I sent a note out to by department, they quickly came forward: Gregory Onorato, Colby Clark and Travis Cunningham."
While a Pittsfield-based event, countywide support has been key to its success, according to Special Olympian parents Sheila Dargie, of Cheshire, and Marcie Cowell from Pittsfield.
"The people behind me are from Cheshire and North Adams," Cowell said.
Dargie added, "We have it down to a science with a lot more people involved."
"Cop on Top" is one of several fundraising efforts law enforcement undertake to raise money for the Special Olympics under the Law Enforcement Torch Run Initiative — the local initiative being the highest grossing fundraising program in Massachusetts, according to the Berkshire torch run organization.