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Cops get 'crabby' to raise funds for Special Olympics

By Kathy Jefcoats

kjefcoats@news-daily.com

MORROW — They donned wigs and got jiggy with it at Joe's Crab Shack Thursday night — "they" being Morrow police officers.

The department, led by Chief Chris Leighty, participated in the annual Tip A Cop fundraiser to benefit Special Olympics. Leighty was, so to speak, the chief "fun raiser" wearing a bright yellow hair visor and flitting around the popular restaurant.

"We've enjoyed ourselves, acting the fool, having a good time," said Leighty. "It's a win-win for everyone."

The police officers greeted customers at the door, handing them a flyer that allowed 10 percent of their bill to go to Special Olympics. Officers also went from table to table, offering to fill non-alcoholic drinks.

"I can't take your food order because I might mess it up," said Sgt. Richard Thrasher. "But I can bring you water or whatever your drinking. Non-alcoholic."

At some point, Thrasher put on a bright red curly wig and joined a conga line of servers and other officers as they danced through the restaurant. With loud music blaring out fun tunes, a good time was had by all — maybe none so more than Paige Copeland.

Copeland of Henry County is a Special Olympics athlete. Like the officers, Copeland put on a bright wig — pink — and offered assistance to customers.

"I have had a blast," she said. "I think it's a great atmosphere and it has been so much fun."

Copeland will compete next month in master bowling.

"We have been practicing a lot," she said. "I have a lot of medals."

She said she and other athletes are grateful for the police department's role in keeping Special Olympics viable.

"I feel like they are family because they're helping with Special Olympics," she said.

Leighty said it is a pleasure.

"Every $150 we raise will sponsor one Special Olympics athlete," he said. "They are a wonderful group of kids. You can't go wrong sponsoring Special Olympics."

The restaurant is typically packed with locals but gets the occasional tourist off nearby I-75. Pam and Ron Litts from Lakeland, Fla., dropped in Thursday night and the timing couldn't have been better.

"I think it's marvelous," said Pam Litts. "Our grandson is autistic and is involved in Special Olympics down in Florida."

Her husband agreed, calling Special Olympics a "wonderful program."

"They make sure every child is included, which is wonderful because so many times children with special needs are left out of activities," Pam Litts said.

The program lasted all day and Leighty said Clayton County elected and other officials dropped in for lunch to support Special Olympics.

Joe's Crab Shack Director of Operations Mike Bichard said the restaurant is pleased with the turnout.

"I'm never dissatisfied with the crowds," he said. "The company's objective is to give back to the communities."

Morrow Police Department competed with other law enforcement agencies around the state to see who could raise the most money for Special Olympics. The goal was $5,000 for Morrow.

However, Leighty said the end result is the same, no matter who wins.

"You can't argue with something that benefits Special Olympics," he said. "We really rocked it today. It's been a good fit for us."

Staff reporter Curt Yeomans contributed to this article.