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Donor stuns police with $25K check

Palos Park’s Chief of Police Joe Miller stood atop a Dunkin Donuts last Friday as part of a fundraiser for Special Olympics Illinois and figured pretty quickly that the day was about as good as it was going to get.

He couldn’t have been more wrong.

“I got there about 5 a.m., trying to drum up as much attention and support as possible,” he said of the annual “Cop On a Rooftop” event that features law enforcement officers standing above participating Dunkin Donuts stores while fellow officers are stationed below to collect donations.

“I think it was sometime around 7 a.m. when a car pulled up that caught all our attention. It was a 2018 Rolls Royce with doors that lift up, they go straight up in the air,” he said.

Miller said the driver got out and exchanged pleasantries with the officers on the ground, stopping to talk with them as they explained the Cop On a Rooftop Special Olympics support effort.

“I saw him reach into his pocket and he started peeling off money. It was clear it was hundred dollar bills,” Miller said. “There turned out to be eight of them. We thought that would be the highlight of the day.”

Not quite so fast.

“He went in, got his coffee, came out and talked (further) with Officers John Sutko, Ross Chibe and Derek Kaczmarczyk about Special Olympics. He goes to his car, comes back with his checkbook and writes a check.”

Officer Sutko was the first to see it.

The amount? $25,000.

“I was speechless,” Sutko told The Regional News outside the Dunkin Donuts at 13029 S. LaGrange Rd. “I couldn’t believe my eyes.”

Sutko, who this year is leading the Palos Park Police Department’s 10th annual participation in Cop On a Rooftop, said “There weren’t any words to describe how lucky and blessed we felt and how much it meant to us that the money is going to Special Olympics Illinois and the athletes.”

Back in the newsroom on Friday after meeting Officer Sutko, we wondered how many of our readers might immediately ask if the check turned out to be the real deal.

It did.

“It’s legit,” Katie Risley reported happily on Tuesday afternoon. She’s the associate director for the Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics Illinois.

“We’ve gotten lots of different donations of various sizes for this event, but nothing like the $25,000,” she said. “We deeply appreciate the generous donation from that anonymous person.”

Upon questioning, Risley said that the identity of the person is actually known to Special Olympics Illinois due to the name on the check, but that the agency is committed to honoring the man’s request for anonymity.

“He was adamant about that and we’re going to respect it,” she said. “We’re just thrilled to let people know this happened.”

Risley expressed gratitude for all the donations generated by the annual effort, from people who contribute change to “very generous corporate donors and supporters.”

“We have a great mix of law enforcement officers who do this every year or who are new to the event and new to Special Olympics Illinois, which will hold its summer games June 15-17 at Illinois State University in downstate Normal.

“Special Olympics Illinois is a sports competition and training program that gives opportunities to individuals with intellectual disabilities to train and compete year-round, free of charge,” Risley explained. “That’s why fundraising is so vital.”

But Friday, after the $25,000 check was secured at the Palos Park Police Station, Officer Sutko continued his fundraising mission at the LaGrange Road Dunkin Donuts, along with fellow officers, community service officers, cadets and members of Citizens on Patrol (COPS), the Palos Park community watch organization.

“Hi, how are you?” he said as he greeted countless motorists departing the drive-thru window.

Holding a small metal pail aloft, he said “Raising money for Special Olympics. Every penny counts. Thank you for your donation. Have a great day!”

Far more motorists than not, he said, offered at least something in the way of a donation.

“This event brings the community together and it’s for a great cause,” he said. “It’s really something that we’re lucky enough to work in the great community of Palos Park where people donate and give their time and care about stuff like this.”

Just before another vehicle was about to exit the drive-thru, Sutko said “We couldn’t have asked for a better situation all-in-all. This has made my whole Special Olympics fundraising career.”

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