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Breakfast for champions

Cop on a Rooftop raises money for Special Olympics

-Messenger photo by Elijah Decious
Gage Porter, a Special Olympics athlete, participates in his second year fundraising Friday morning for a good cause that he says makes him feel human.

From the bird’s eye view over Dunkin’ Donuts, Lt. Dennis Quinn of the Fort Dodge Police Department saw an annual phenomenon in town Friday morning: flecks of orange arriving in droves to line up in an orderly queue around the building’s drive-thru.

On this day each year, it’s the early donor that gets the doughnut at Cop on a Rooftop.

Those orange flecks were pieces of paper, seen held by drivers over the crest of their steering wheels, awarding patrons with a free doughnut in the store’s annual fundraiser with law enforcement to raise money for the Special Olympics.

“I did see a lot of twenties,” said Doug Wilk, supervisor at Fort Dodge Correctional Facility. Twenties were being put in the bucket, and a line 20 cars deep in the drive-thru clogged the parking lot throughout the morning.

“It took 45 minutes to get in the doors of the store,” due to the sheer amount of people coming in, said Cory Husske, Fort Dodge’s assistant chief of police.

-Messenger photo by Elijah Decious
Officer Harmon Atwood and Lt. Dennis Quinn with Fort Dodge Police Department beg passersby to help them get off the Dunkin’ Donuts roof Friday morning by donating to the Special Olympics.

To get the paper, you have to give some paper — or at least a few pieces of metal. Officers and athletes alike found no hesitancy in Fort Dodge’s generosity this year.

From 6 to 11 a.m., officers begged drivers on Fifth Avenue South to get them down from the roof.

Drivers took note, at times holding up traffic in the outside lane to get their money to collectors on the sidewalk.

“People have been driving over and giving me money,” said Jesse Anderson, who works at the correctional facility, filling his utility pockets with hundreds of dollars until he could manage to put it in the larger collection bucket. “I try to give them a coupon and they say to just give it to someone else.”

But officers weren’t being held captive. On the contrary, their cause managed to captivate the hearts of hundreds of donors this year, just as usual, in a quest to be the most generous fundraising location in the state.

-Messenger photo by Elijah Decious
Lt. Matt Lundberg of Fort Dodge Police Department patrols the grounds of Dunkin’ Donuts Friday morning to raise funds for the Special Olympics. Tasha Harper of Fort Dodge stopped by just to donate.

Most of that is just to help the special athletes, but a small slice found motivation in reclaiming the title of top fundraiser, which Marshalltown managed to nab last year after Fort Dodge’s two-year winning streak.

This year, they saw many stopping by just to drop off cash, or even take the time to write a check. After it was all counted up, they managed to raise $3,088 this year — just $15 short of breaking even with last year’s total. It’s yet to be seen whether they managed to reclaim their top spot.

The annual fundraiser is the second-largest fundraiser that law enforcement participates in for the Special Olympics, according to Wilk. The biggest one is the Polar Plunge.

But all that counts to Special Olympics athlete Gage Porter is that people like him are seen for their ability every day, not just while they’re holding signs on rooftops.

“When I heard there was some charity stuff, well, I just went for it,” Porter said, holding his sign next to the ladder. “I get to help out all my fellow Olympians and all the other coaches, too.”

This is his second year helping to raise funds for those differently abled, like him.

Porter said he plays as many sports as he can, but his favorite is bowling, because that’s what he’s best at — and the one he won his first gold medal in.

To see the response of Fort Dodge makes him feel as much of a winner as the Special Olympics has allowed him to prove is.

“It feels great,” to help out fellow athletes, he said. “It means we get more of a chance to do our best.”

But just having an avenue to compete means something more than money can buy to a kid who couldn’t play most sports growing up.

“It’s one of the best things I’ve ever done,” said 23-year-old Porter. “When I got into the Special Olympics, it made me feel like I’m a real champion.”

“I truly am in the eyes of my family,” he added.

And judging by what he witnesses each year from the roof of a doughnut shop, he reckons his hometown does, too.