In many ways, the Thursday night dinner rush at Texas Roadhouse was routine. Orders flew out of the kitchen, drinks quickly refilled, guests finished up their meals. But how they got their dinner was a bit more...official.
"There's a couple of guys that were looking at me like, 'uhh... what's going on?' They couldn't quite figure it out," said Austin Police Department Commander Todd Smith.
What was going on was Tip-a-Cop, an event raising money for Special Olympics Texas.
"But once we brought them beers and margaritas they were a lot happier," joked Smith, who helped represent APD at the fundraising event.
At 50 Texas Roadhouse locations across Texas, law enforcement teamed up with Special Olympics Texas athletes to try and raise $200,000.
"We look forward to this event every year. A lot of officers just volunteer, so they've been working all day, and they put their uniforms back on and they want to come back out and spend their time with everybody and anybody who's been involved with the community and the Special Olympics," Smith said.
By their side, the true stars - the athletes.
"I went to Nationals in 2014 - for the sport of power lifting, and brought home three gold medals," said Heather Aldrete, who's been a Special Olympian for fifteen years.
While it was a personal achievement, Alderete said she was happy for what it represented.
"I felt very proud. (I) brought home three gold medals back to Texas," said Alderete.
She spent the night trading in weights for serving trays, going table to table explaining why the Special Olympics were so important to her.
"It's what we do. It's what we look forward to doing," explained Alderete.
Statewide, 58,333 athletes participate in Special Olympics Texas, but Suzanne Anderson, the interim CEO of Special Olympics Texas, said there's room for growth.
"Our goal is to invite every athlete, every person with intellectual disabilities that would qualify for our program to be a part of it. Because what it does is it provides them with an avenue to showcase their talents (and skills). It also gets families involved, and the community involved with a program that makes a difference in changing hearts and minds," said Suzanne Anderson, the interim CEO of Special Olympics Texas.
It's why every dollar raised can make a major impact.
"$200,000 goes a long way. We stretch every single dollar. Statewide we do 20 sports, so athletes can get involved in just about anything that they'd like to," Anderson explained.
Of the money raised, Anderson said 92 cents of every dollar goes towards programs.
While many of these agencies work fundraisers year-round, few are as interactive as this one.
"So just to see their eyes light up when an (officer) walks in the door, that makes the best gift of all," said Smith.
"We're able to really get to know the athletes on a more personal basis, learn what they do. Learn what Special Olympics has done for them, help them get their story out. And they get to learn from us as well what we do," said Travis County Precinct 5 Deputy Constable Michelle Walter.
Deputy Constable Walter helped supervise athletes.
"It helps bridge a lot of the gaps that we have. It helps us build positive relationships with the community, and with the athletes to help them get out their mission as well," said Walter.
And do so together - table by table, donation by donation.
To donate to Special Olympics Texas, click here.
To learn about volunteer opportunities, click here.
Statewide, 58,333 athletes participate in Special Olympics Texas, but Anderson believes there's room for growth.
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