GREAT FALLS — If you passed by Mackenzie River Pizza in Great Falls on Tuesday, September 19th, chances are you saw the flashing red and blue lights from a police siren along with a sign that read "Tip-A-Cop".
An annual tradition, Tip-A-Cop is an official Law Enforcement Torch Run (LETR) fundraising event. Law enforcement officers and department personnel volunteer their time as "Celebrity Servers" to collect tips in supporting Special Olympics Montana. These special tips are in addition to the normal tip you leave for your server.
Special Olympics Montana athlete, John Bronec has been participating in Tip-A-Cop for quite some time. He stated what he enjoys most about the event.
Bronec stated, "I've been doing this for quite a few years and it's a lot of fun working with these guys (law enforcement). Cops are a lot of fun."
The first Tip-A-Cop with Mackenzie River Pizza was held in 2011 at the Whitefish location. Since then, the event has expanded into both Kalispell locations, Bozeman, Belgrade, Helena, Great Falls, Butte, Whitefish and two locations in both Billings and Missoula. Tip-A-Cop events are also held throughout the state at other local restaurants.
Assistant Manager for Mackenzie River Pizza, Krystal Pfleger said, "it's just nice to have all the athletes here. You meet a ton of people. You make a lot of new friends. The officers are great. The athletes are great. It's just so much fun.
While law enforcement's day-to-day duties is to "protect and to serve," the word, "serve" gives an all-new meaning.
"I got to say that it's exciting for us," said GFPD Special Projects Officer, John Marshall. "It's a break from our routine of our day. We get to meet and greet people, tell them about the Tip-A-Cop event and Special Olympics. We're here with the athletes. This is a big day for them. We get to pair up with an athlete. We talk to our community members, and we get to serve them."
Marshall added the comradery with SOMT (Special Olympics Montana) athletes, along with engaging with customers makes the biggest difference.
"We're not here on bad terms," Marshall noted. "We're here on good terms, creating a better relationship with our community and our athletes. This means the world to them. Coming here to help raise money for Special Olympics by buying the Guardian pizza. two dollars of it goes towards back toward Special Olympics for every pizza sold. It just it's an awesome adventure that we get to come down here, take a break from our day in, day out duties."
Over $313,500 has been raised through Tip-A-Cop events since 2011.
In 2022, the Law Enforcement Torch Run raised over $386,000 for Special Olympics Montana and over $9 million since its inception.