Alcoa police get ‘all wet’ to raise funds for MADD

Alcoa police officers are mad about drunk drivers, and they’re willing to sit in a dunking booth to prove it.

On April 18, officers from Alcoa Police Department held a fundraiser for Mothers Against Drunk Drivers. Patrons paid $1 for the chance to throw a ball and knock an officer into a dunking booth, which was set up in front of the Alcoa Wal-Mart. The event was called “Our APD is MADD about Drunk Drivers.”

The event drew a crowd and a very special guest. Darlene Renee Thomas, whose daughter and infant grandson were killed in a wreck with an alleged drunk driver on Alcoa Highway earlier this year, stopped by the booth.

“They really surprised me. I know these guys have families, too,” said Darlene Renee Thomas said of the officers raising money for MADD. Her daughter and grandson, Brittany Thomas, 21, and Aiden, 10-months, died in a wreck on Feb. 27.

Event coordinator Officer Jeff Parsons said the department raised a total of $2,036 and the soaking wet officers raised almost $600 in six hours the day of the dunking booth. “It was awesome,” he said.

Lt. Paul Gilbert said the department was in a law enforcement challenge with the University of Tennessee police and Knox County Sheriff’s Office to raise funds for MADD.

“This was one thing we came up with - for a dollar a ball, you could dunk an officer,” Gilbert said. “This is the first time we’ve done the fundraiser.”

Gilbert said the officers also took part in a fundraising walk in West Knoxville on April 24.

Parson said in addition to the money from the dunking booth, they raised money by getting donations from area individuals and businesses in Blount County. APD raised the most money of all three departments participating, he said.

Julie Strike, programs coordinator for East Tennessee MADD, said the winning team got a trophy and a gift card. Strike was impressed with the officers’ enthusiasm.

“Alcoa took this by storm. I had high hopes when I did this, and Knox County Sheriff’s Office got involved, and then I was contacted by Alcoa Police Department, and they just took over,” she said. “They were awesome and had a great time. They were really into the dunking booth with officers coming to participate on their day off or before they went to work, which I thought was wonderful.”

Thomas appreciated the officers taking time to raise money for MADD and said they’ve been very supportive of her since the wreck.

“I was blown way by all the kindness and support I’ve had through all of this, even by those who didn’t know me or my daughter,” she said. “To know they cared this much -- I can’t express it in words.”

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