Bring your post-workout appetite to Norma's Cafe on Tuesday, but leave the calorie counting for another day. Fellow athletes will be serving up chicken-fried steak and slices of mile-high pie.
All five locations of the iconic North Texas eatery will host teams of Special Olympics athletes and law enforcement officers working alongside restaurant staff from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. on May 8.
Donations, tips and a portion of total sales will benefit Special Olympics Texas (SOTX). Last year, the fundraiser raised a total $12,660, according to a statement.
Tip-A-Cop fundraisers are an extension of the Law Enforcement Torch Run, founded by Kansas police chief in 1981 to bring awareness to Special Olympics organizations worldwide. During a torch run, an officer carries a "Flame of Hope" through his or her community to kick off local, state, national or world Special Olympics competitions.
These days, torch runs are just part of a larger network of first responder-backed grassroots fundraising efforts that benefit the organization financially while also introducing the wider community to Special Olympics athletes.
In North Texas, upcoming events include fire truck pulls, beach volleyball tournaments, cycling competitions, golf tournaments and polar plunges, among other outdoorsy events -- like, for example, a motorcycle ride that begins with doughnuts and ends with a party at Tupps Brewery on May 19 in McKinney. That's a fun day.
Doug Ray, SOTX Senior Development Director - Torch Run, says funds raised through events like these directly impact more than 7,300 athletes in North Texas. They provide uniforms and equipment, as well as facility rentals and travel expenses to competitions around the state.
People tend to think of the Special Olympics as a single, annual track and field meet, but that's a misconception, he says. In reality, the organization provides year-round training and produces sporting events virtually every weekend.
There are more than 100 Special Olympics basketball teams in the Dallas area alone, he says.
Families can become involved when their children are as young as 2 yearsold, and athletes can begin training at age 6 and competing at age 8. Some -- like a 73 year-old athlete Ray works with in North Texas -- participate throughout life.
Norma's Cafe became involved with the Torch Run when an Addison police officer reached out to the North Dallas restaurant about a Tip-A-Cop campaign five years ago.
Involvement has grown as Norma's continued expanding in D-FW; so has the friendly competitiveness to see who can raise the most money among Addison, Dallas, Frisco and Plano police departments, says Bill Ziegler, director of operations for Norma's Cafe.
The original Norma's Cafe in Oak Cliff was founded in 1956, and current owner Ed Murph grew up eating there as kid. He felt so attached to his local diner that, when Norma Lee Smith Manis announced plans to sell her cafe, he bought it in 1986. Today, you can find Norma's outposts on Park Lane and in far North Dallas, Frisco and Plano.
Murph has made a point of letting customers know he's committed to making the entire brand as important to their communities as the original location was to him. Throughout the year, Norma's offers giveaways, deals and feel-good fundraisers. It's a culture of giving back that started 30 years ago when Murph first gave away Thanksgiving meals to those in need, Ziegler says.
"We try to find a way to say yes to almost everyone," he says.
When it comes to partnering with charities, Ziegler says restaurant's primary requirement is that they represent causes that are meaningful to and a good fit in their communities.
In Texas, athletes compete in 22 sports ranging from gymnastics and triathlons to equestrianism. Ray says basketball, bowling and track and field attract the most participants in North Texas.
Although Texas may not be known for winter sports, SOTX hosted a regional level figure skating competition at Allen Community Ice Rink in February. This month, the SOTX 2018 Summer Games run from May 24-27 at multiple venues in Arlington.
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