Police Officers in the North County have raised a million dollars for local Special Olympic athletes in 25 years

NORTH COUNTY — Law enforcement officers from all over North County came together at the Paso Robles Event Center for Tip-A-Cop on Wednesday, Sept. 27, starting at 5:30 p.m. The Atascadero Police Department, Paso Robles PD, California Highway Patrol, officers who work at Atascadero State Hospital (ASH), and more exchanged their badges for serving trays and cooking utensils as they raised money for local athletes who participate in the Special Olympics.

“It’s a pretty awesome thing to be a part of,” said Kelley Blackshear from the ASH Department of Police Services. “Getting all of the different agencies together. It builds a rapport and camaraderie between the different facilities, which is really cool so that outside of here, we can have each other’s backs. And then you get to see everybody change and grow throughout their careers, which is really cool, too.”

The feeling at the Paso Robles Event Center was that of a huge team of police officers coming together to support the community in a really big way. And the community showed up, too. Chief’s Tables for eight went for $500, Officer’s Tables for eight went for $250, and then there were even solo dinners who got a home-cooked meal for $35. Every meal included a tri-tip, chicken, beans, bread, and salad, just like a traditional Santa Maria-style BBQ.


“It’s fun to get cops doing something that isn’t their normal job and serving dinner to people. People enjoy that, and there’s a lot of different volunteer groups, Kiwanis Club, Sheriff’s Department, we have a whole bunch of volunteers from Special Olympics. It all comes together, and it’s after years of practicing,” SLO City Reserve Police Officer and Retired Lieutenant Bill Proll said at the event.

Tip-A-Cop isn’t a new event to San Luis Obispo County. In fact, police officers have been holding the fundraiser, slipping in aprons, and raising funds for local Special Olympics athletes for over two decades. This year, it’s aproximated that the officers raised around $30,000 on Wednesday night alone. 

“We started Tip-A-Cop 25 years ago at the Vets Hall in San Luis Obispo, and we’ve grown now to two or three a year in a row,” Proll said. “Last night, we were in San Luis. Tonight, we’re here. Tomorrow night, we’re in Cambria.”

“I’ve been a part of it for years and years and years. It gives you a great intrinsic feeling that you’re doing something good for the community,” Interim Police Chief of Atascadero Joe Allen said.

Over the last 25 years, local police have raised 1 million dollars for local Special Olympics athletes and 1 billion dollars has been raised worldwide.

“It’s the charity of choice for the world for police officers,” added Proll. “That’s how we’ve been able to raise a billion dollars, and all that money goes back to local programs. Buying equipment, buying vans to transport athletes, insurance. This is a huge undertaking. It’s something like 110,000 police officers that are involved with Special Olympics.” 

Not only do the local police host Tip-A-Cop, but they also participate in the Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics in June and the actual Special Olympics in May. But it’s the money that’s made between the events that keep Special Olympic athletes thriving in the county.

“It’s always fun. A lot of times the athletes will come that we serve and that’s like the most fun,” said Officer Smallwood of the Paso Robles PD. “Sometimes we’ll go watch them do some of their competitions in San Luis. It’s just fun to see where the fundraising is going and you can actually see who it’s fundraising for.” 

Feature Image: (From left) ASH Department of Police Services Officers Kelley Blackshear, Jamie Murray, Jean Wilson, Theresa Allen (wife of Atascadero Iterim Police Chief), Ester Wilson, and Kristin Morgan prepare desserts at Tip-A-Cop. Photo by Christianna Marks.