Bernie Colon has been a police officer for nearly 28 years and has enjoyed several experiences throughout his career. But it’s his involvement with Special Olympics that has been “by far one of the most rewarding,” and he makes it a point to get new officers involved.
Colon, currently the captain of the San Diego Police Department, brought a handful of officers along to last Saturday’s Special Olympics San Diego Regional Fall Games at the Rancho Bernardo Recreation Center.
The look on the athletes’ faces when they accomplish their goals and earn a medal – of any sort – is an experience he also shares with his children.
“I bring my own kids to have them see how genuine that is and how that is an example of good sportsmanship,” Colon said. “No matter what place they get, they’re excited and cheer each other on.
“Once you walk away, you’ll always remember that and probably get involved with it more.”
Colon serves on Special Olympics Southern California’s Law Enforcement Torch Run Council as one of three regional directors in San Diego County. He has been in the position for three years.
The next big event will be Oct. 19 at Red Robin’s nationwide Tip-A-Cop, which puts local law enforcement in a different kind of service role. The officers and Special Olympics athletes will be serving the patrons their orders, and all tips donated will benefit Special Olympics programs.
Beyond that, Colon said, it gives communities a chance to connect with Special Olympics athletes and see them in a different light. Specifically, the focus isn’t so much on the intellectual disabilities, but their capabilities.
“It’s an opportunity for the regular patrons of the restaurants to understand, meet and talk to the athletes, engage with the athletes,” he said. “It’s a great opportunity to educate themselves.
“All of the Special Olympics events I’ve been involved with have been very positive. You really educate people who don’t realize that.”
For more information on the Oct. 19 Red Robin Tip-A-Cop and to find a location nearest you, visit our website at SOSC.org/redrobin.