Law enforcement vehicles lined the parking lots of nearly 80 Dunkin’ locations across the state on Tuesday, Sept. 29, as local officers came out to help support and collect funds for Special Olympics Georgia and its families on National Coffee Day.
Dunkin’ Field Marketing Manager Katie Gaston said that National Coffee Day is always a huge day for the company, bringing in many more customers as they offer a free medium coffee per person all day long. This year, the company felt this was the perfect time to ask customers to come by, get a free coffee and pay it forward with a donation to the Law Enforcement Torch Run, a program among law enforcement in the state which helps to support SOGA programs.
“At Dunkin’, our franchisees are local business owners who truly enjoy being involved in the communities they serve,” Gaston said. “We are honored to have the opportunity to host this fundraiser at our Dunkin’ locations to help Special Olympics Georgia continue in its mission.”
Officers with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation gathered just outside of the Dunkin’ location on Peachtree Parkway in Cumming from 5 a.m. to 11 a.m., on Tuesday, greeting customers with donation buckets in hand for the Officers at Donut Shops fundraiser.
Assistant Special Agent in Charge Lisa Vorrasi said that she has been working with SOGA for many years, even before their partnership with Dunkin’ began.
Vorrasi and other local law enforcement officers work year-round to help raise funds and support SOGA so that families can be involved in its programs. She said that the Law Enforcement Torch Run is the largest grassroots fundraiser for Special Olympics in the state.
Ever since getting involved in SOGA fundraising around eight years ago, Vorrasi said she has fallen in love with the community and many of the families she has gotten to meet as a volunteer.
“As soon as I witnessed the sportsmanship, everyone was in an amazing mood, people weren’t fixated on their own problems and you just look at that and the most deserving athletes just doing what they love best,” Vorrasi said. “I just knew that … I wanted to help.”
Local law enforcement officers first partnered with Dunkin’ to start the donation day at Georgia locations in 2016. Usually, the fundraiser is held on National Doughnut Day in June, but as there was still uncertainty surrounding the pandemic over the summer this year, the company decided to move it to National Coffee Day.
In the last four years, the company and local law enforcement officers have been able to raise more than $320,000 for SOGA programs — with $90,000 of those funds being raised in just one day last year.
Since the fundraiser was held on National Coffee Day this year, Gaston said that she is hoping to raise even more, setting the goal at $120,000.
After the donations are collected and counted this week, Dunkin’ leaders plan to present the check to SOGA and its families.
Gaston said local Dunkin’ franchisees are grateful for the help of law enforcement and their involvement in the fundraiser each year.
“It’s just a positive that the police officers are so involved with it, too,” Gaston said. “The franchisee who owns the stores here in Cumming and several others — he’s our largest franchisee in Atlanta — he goes above and beyond for the police department constantly. It’s really important to him.
“These are the people who protect them, care about them, care about their community and then equally some of our best customers,” she said.
The officers who volunteered on Tuesday are eager to see how much they raised collectively at the 78 Dunkin’ locations in Georgia, all going directly to SOGA, which works to have a positive impact on those in the community through athletic competition and training.
SOGA provides community programs and Olympic-type sport competitions “for all children and adults with intellectual disabilities, giving them continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy and participate in the sharing of gifts, skills and friendship with their families, other Special Olympics athletes and the community,” according to a Dunkin’ press release.
After years of involvement, Vorrasi and other local officers said that they plan to continue volunteering and collecting donations for as long as they can.
“It’s the best feeling in the world,” Vorrasi said. “Once you start doing it, it’s something that I know I will do for the rest of my life because I see the impact it has on the athletes and then they can do what they love. And if it means us going out there and bugging people and raising money, it’s 100% worth it.”