MAPLE PARK—Colleen MacRunnels aims for the Maple Park Police Department to be in first place in this year’s Illinois Law Enforcement Torch Run, a competition among police departments to raise the most money for Special Olympics.
The $37,000 the department raised at Sunday’s sixth annual Pulling for Special Olympics Sporting Clay Shoot event will go a long way toward that goal, which the MPPD hopes to achieve by raising $50,000 total.
Last year, the department raised a total of $40,071.83—the largest chunk of which, $32,000, came from last year’s clay shoot—and that was enough to put the MPPD in fifth place statewide, right between the two heavyweights of Illinois law enforcement: the Illinois State Police, which took fourth place, and the Chicago Police Department, which took sixth. Crestwood’s police department took first place.
It was an impressive showing for such a small department—Maple Park has only one full-time officer, Chief Mike Acosta, and five part-time officers.
“It shocks the other police departments who are huge, and they ask, ‘How many people do you have?’ And they’re just amazed. They want to know, ‘How did you do that?’ And I basically tell them it’s the coordinators working for us,” Acosta said. “(Colleen and Jim MacRunnels) are out there shaking bushes and looking for donations, and they are giving from their heart to the Special Olympics.”
Colleen, who lives in Elburn and worked for the Illinois Department of Corrections, had been organizing Law Enforcement Torch Run events for several years. When she retired, she approached Acosta about organizing the fundraisers for the MPPD instead, and she created the Pulling for Special Olympics event.
In its first year, the clay shoot raised only $2,400, but it’s been growing every year, Colleen said. This year’s event, which took place at the St. Charles Sportsman’s Club in Elburn, had nearly 300 shooters participating. Participants paid $75 if they preregistered or $90 at the door.
The clay shoot featured three different courses, each with five stations. Participants chose a course and then got to shoot at the five stations, each of which was set up differently.
“At each station, the sporting clay shells went off in different directions,” Colleen said. “They mimicked birds and different animals.”
In addition to the clay shoot, the event included trap shooting, shooting games, lunch, door prizes and a silent auction. Sponsors donated dozens of prizes for the silent auction, including a Cruzin Cooler, guns, gun accessories, jewelry and wine baskets. Door prizes included a variety of different guns, as well as scopes, ammunition, clays and shells, gun vaults, deep fryers, time on the target range, a pheasant hunt, rounds of golf, sunglasses, games and restaurant gift certificates.
In addition to the money raised through the shooting course, raffles and auction, many local companies and individuals sponsored the event, providing products for the raffles and auction or cash donations. Monnett Precision Grinding in Addison donated all the guns used as prizes, and Berkeley Finer Foods in Batavia sponsored the lunch.
Other sponsors included the Maple Park Pub and Grill; the Kane County Flea Market; Dan Murphy—Edward Jones of Elburn; Cabela’s, a sporting goods store in Hoffman Estates, Ill.; and the Wal-Mart in DeKalb.
Several Special Olympics athletes were present at the event, as well, including Sugar Grove resident Dustin Dickens, who won a gold medal in powerlifting at the 2007 Special Olympics world summer games in China. Dustin, a former Elburn resident, has Down syndrome and works at the Jewel in Elburn.
“They were there kind of like public relations,” said Rick Dickens, who is Dustin’s father. “They helped with various small things, but they’re there schmoozing, not shooting. They wear their medals, sell raffle tickets (and) thank all the shooters for coming.”
Dustin, who has won 80 gold medals, 35 silver medals and 27 bronze medals throughout his career as a Special Olympian, only wore a few medals from his collection because “the medals get heavy,” Rick said.
“The shooters got to see the athletes out there with their medals, (and) they got a chance to meet the athletes, and it’s really impactful,” Colleen said.
According to Colleen, the clay shoot is a successful fundraiser partly because of the uniqueness of the event.
“My husband (Jim) and a couple of his friends made the suggestion (to have a clay shooting event) because, for the Special Olympics, a lot of the police departments do golf outings and we wanted to do something different,” Colleen said. “It’s been a real positive event, and it’s been growing by word-of-mouth. People come and have fun, and then they tell a friend and their neighbor.”
Even if the department doesn’t take first place this year, Colleen said she plans to keep trying.
“Our goal for this year is No. 1. I’m not going to quit until we do,” she said.
Acosta said he thinks the department has a good shot at winning this year—they were only $7,000 behind Crestwood, the first-place winner last year—and he is hoping to be able to display the first-place trophy.
“You get this really huge trophy, and I didn’t know that until this year until I went down to Crestwood and I saw that they had one,” he said. “We received the gold award last year for raising over $20,000 a year. But next year? How do you top No. 1? I guess you just continue to be top.”
Though the clay shoot was the biggest Special Olympics fundraiser the MPPD will do this year, there are at least two more fundraisers planned to help the department reach its $50,000 goal.
The first, Cop on Top, will be on May 31, and Maple Park’s police officers will sit on the roof of the Dunkin’ Donuts at 80 Tyler Creek Plaza in Elgin, asking people to make a $10 donation to Special Olympics in return for a free Special Olympics coffee mug, a donut and a coffee refill.
“All the officers go up on the rooftops of Dunkin’ Donuts, and people give money to get us off the roof,” Acosta said. “You know—a cop and a donut. It goes together.”
The family-friendly event will also feature either Mr. McGruff, the crime dog mascot, or an ambulance for children to look at, Colleen said.
The department will also host the Wheel of Meat Extravaganza at 5 p.m. on Saturday, July 27, at the Maple Park Pub, 221 Main St., Maple Park. The event, which is also organized by the MacRunnels, will raffle off 125 prizes, including meat from Inboden’s Meat Market in DeKalb, sporting goods and various other prizes. Last year, the Wheel of Meat event raised $6,800 for the Special Olympics.
If the department hasn’t reached its total fundraising goal of $50,000 after that, Colleen may plan additional events to raise more before the December deadline. Last year, Bootlegger’s in Maple Park did a last-minute raffle to help the Police Department meet its goal.
Acosta said the department will find out which department was ranked No. 1 at the kickoff for next year’s Law Enforcement Torch Run competition in February.
“It’s amazing, because when you think about Maple Park, it’s a small little town. But when you look in general at the top fundraisers, they are small towns,” Rick said. “When you have a small town like Elburn that embraced our son, everybody knows everybody. And the small towns really support their own and their causes.”