For Santa Maria Police Department Detective Nate Totorica, getting to spend time with Special Olympics Southern California athletes is a way to “refill his tank.” The liaison for Northern Santa Barbara County Law Enforcement Torch Run says the athletes give back to him just as much, if not more, than he gives them.
“It is so important for law enforcement to be involved just in the fact that we deal with negative crisis type situations regularly. To be able to come out here and give back to the community to a group that is so excited and so appreciative, it is almost like refilling your tank,” said Det. Totorica, who has been volunteering with SOSC for seven years and the LETR liaison for five.
Speaking of filling your tank, there is a perfect opportunity to do just that tonight (Thursday, Oct. 19) when Totorica and officers throughout Southern California serve alongside athletes at participating Red Robin Gourmet Burgers and Brews restaurants for the 2017 Red Robin Tip-A-Cop. The event features officers and athletes serving customers to raise awareness and funds for the more than 31,000 SOSC athletes.
Totorica and the Santa Maria Police Department will be at the Red Robin in Santa Maria tonight from 5 to 9 pm. More than 40 agencies and 40 Red Robin restaurants throughout Southern California will participate in tonight’s fundraiser. All tips raised during the event go directly to SOSC Athletes. For the full list of restaurants, CLICK HERE.
“This is a really cool event. Many officers come out and hand out medals at events like this one (Northern Divisional Games). But Tip-A-Cop is great because you get to work alongside the athletes,” said Totorica. “They are the ones that boost the atmosphere and make the event a lot of fun. Smiling, shaking hands, and just having a blast knowing we are raising money for them. That is the part that makes it so fun, hanging out with the athletes and having fun.”
Hanging out with the athletes is how Totorica got so addicted to Special Olympics.
“I have been doing this for about seven years now. I was asked to hand out medals at an area games for two hours. I was hooked,” said Totorica. “How they compete, their passion and the effort they put forward, is truly encouraging. How the athletes compete is genuine. It is real. It is what sports is supposed to be.
“We are out here putting medals on their necks and cheering for them, but we walk away so much more encouraged and fulfilled. It’s almost like they give us more encouragement than we give them.”
Totorica is quick to share vivid memories capturing the spirit of the movement. He is quick to tell the story of an athlete that fell 10 yards into the 100-yard dash at an area games two years ago.
“He was upset and laid down at about 10 yards,” says Totorica. “The rest of the competitors completed the race, celebrated and when they realized what happened, three of the athletes came back to get that athlete that had fallen down. They actually escorted that athlete across the 100-yard line. It was amazing. That is an example of how we leave so encouraged.”
Totorica pride in his role with LETR and supporting SOSC, and he feels his peers should get involved with.
“It is about health. This is a way to refill your tank. This is a way to give back something positive to the community. Give me two hours, and I will get them to hand out medals. Usually they are hooked from that point on.”
For a complete list of participating restaurants in Southern California for the 2017 Tip-A-Cop at Red Robin Gourmet Burgers and Brews restaurants, please visit SOSC.org/RedRobin. To learn more about Red Robin Gourmet Burgers and Brews or to find a restaurant location near you, please visit www.redrobin.com.