PITTSFIELD — A deep snowpack and bone-chilling temperatures were no match for this weekend's heartwarming Cop on Top event to support local Special Olympians of all ages.
Dozens of area police officers took turns perched atop the roof of Walmart to help raise thousands of dollars to pay for the training and competitions of Berkshire Special Olympic athletes.
The 10th annual fundraiser brought in $37,000 over a 30-hour period. The charitable gathering kicked off 9 a.m. Saturday and lasted through midafternoon Sunday. Through its history, the event has raised more than $500,000, according to lead organizer, John Bassi, a Pittsfield police investigator.
"All the money stays local," Bassi said, "so none of the athletes have to pay for anything."
Before members of the Pittsfield Police Department, Berkshire County Sheriff's Office, other local and state police agencies could ascend to the roof, organizers had to prepare the site for the elevated camping.
"We had to shovel a path to where we would pitch the tent," Bassi said. The city was blanketed by more than 20 inches of snow earlier in the week.
Cop on Top had a midwinter feel as the officers who drew the overnight shift had to contend with single-digit temperatures that plummeted to 2 degrees by 6 a.m. Sunday.
Organizers say the snow and cold seemed to put the community gathering in a festive, holiday mood with a visit from Santa and Mrs. Claus. Those who stopped by to make or donation or learn more about Special Olympics could also enter a giant raffle, partake in food and drink from community groups and vendors and listen to live musical entertainment.
The real stars of the show were the local Special Olympians, on hand to share their stories of success on and off the athletic field.
"They came out and volunteered their time and to show they lead normal lives," Bassi said.
The 600 local athletes are among the 12,000 across the commonwealth involved in Special Olympics Massachusetts, providing year-round training, competition and other related programs for residents with intellectual disabilities.
Dick Lindsay can be reached at email@example.com.