The Utica Police Department strapped on aprons and rolled up their sleeves Thursday night for a very important cause. The UPD and the Applebee's in North Utica joined forces this evening to raise money for the Special Olympics. The regional director of the Special Olympics New York Maria Alberico says the goal was to raise $7,000 tonight across central New York. And she says the program is so fortunate to have such a wonderful community come together to raise the funds, as it's a program that she says makes possible what some people deem impossible.
Lauren Marraffa is an 11-year-old athlete who participates in the games year round. She is going into her fourth year of the Olympics. She is a skater, bowler, and a swimmer. Lauren's mother says participating in the Special Olympics has been a wonderful experience for her daughter. "When Lauren participates she is pure joy," she says, "she is enthusiastic, she has a lot of courage."
Lauren's brother plays lots of sport, and her mother says she wanted her daughter to have the same experience. But she says there is something unique about the Special Olympics. "We'll watch my son compete, and it's nice, it's a typical sports event, but if you go and you see my daughter compete, its different," she says, "win or lose, they're just there to have fun."
Lauren was at the Applebee's Thursday collecting donations as law enforcement officers tended the bar, cleared tables, and brought out food.
Alberico says the athletes don't pay anything to participate in the games, so that's where the funding raised will go. She's hoping they'll raise more and more each year to allow more athletes to participate.