'$1 can go a long way': KSP hosts 'Cover the Cruiser' fundraising event for SOKY

It’s not every day you see people from the public taping items onto a Kentucky State Police vehicle.

But on Thursday, it was all for a good cause as KSP’s Post 16, headquartered in Henderson, put on the fifth annual “Cover the Cruiser” fundraising event to benefit Special Olympics Kentucky that took place at Audubon Federal Credit Union, 1429 Breckenridge St.

The statewide campaign, which began April 19 in Columbia and concludes April 27, sees troopers throughout the commonwealth parked at various businesses in the attempt of having their cruisers be covered in Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics icons by making a minimum $1 donation to the nonprofit organization.

According to SOKY’s website, all 16 KSP posts and the state headquarters in Frankfort are slated to participate in the program, with all proceeds going toward SOKY sports, health and school community-building programs.

The “Cover the Cruiser” event originally debuted during the height of the coronavirus pandemic and generated over $16,000 in donations.

“ ‘Cover the Cruiser’ has been around for a while, at least within our agency, but it’s all part of the Special Olympics Torch Run,” said Trooper Corey King, public affairs officer for the Henderson post. “In 2020 when Covid hit, that all ended; and as an agency, we (thought), ‘What can we do to help the Special Olympics bring in revenue?’ and that’s how ‘Cover the Cruiser’ was born.”

Over the past four years, “Cover the Cruiser” has raised more than $56,000 — with $9,185 being raised in 2023.

The eponymous cruiser made its way to the front lawn of the federal credit union just a few minutes after 10:30 a.m. Within the first 10 minutes, visitors crowded around the vehicle with already more than half of the passenger side covered with the icons in support of the cause.

Jessica Higdon, chief executive officer for Audubon Federal Credit Union, said this was the first time the business hosted the event after observing a cruiser in front of Dee’s Diner during the 2023 event.

“It’s never been here before,” she said. “We saw it last year (and) we called (KSP) and said, ‘We want it here.’

“We just think it’s a great cause. We want to get our name out there. We want to show the community that we support all these causes ….”

The event was also complemented by coffee and food trucks on-site along with displays by the Owensboro Fire Department, the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Marines, local businesses and appearances by SOKY athletes.

For Higdon, her aim was set high in terms of the amount of donations she wanted to be raised and the number of icons to be taped on the cruiser.

“I hope we have to bring another cruiser in (to cover up),” Higdon said with a laugh, “(or) we’ll start covering up the fire truck.”

King said both KSP and SOKY have a longstanding relationship, with the Torch Run being “law enforcement driven” and “law enforcement based.” He’s found that “Cover the Cruiser” has been “one additional way that one agency, like (KSP), can allocate or donate that money to the (SOKY) program.”

“... We see exactly where (the funds) go,” King said, “and it’s right here here with our communities to the Special Olympic athletes who gain from this.”

Besides the Torch Run, King said there are other opportunities that KSP connects with SOKY on a personal level.

“We actually participate in a bowling event every year for Special Olympics locally, as every post will do the same across the state,” he said. “We do get to garner that relationship with all the athletes that partake in (that) event.”

Jennifer Hamilton, a 43-year old athlete and athlete ambassador for SOKY, has been involved with the organization for over 20 years in sports including basketball, bowling, flag football, softball and track and field and has traveled to China, Maryland, North Carolina and Seattle to compete.

Hamilton said seeing the community covering the cruiser in-person alongside fellow athlete, 23-year-old Dawn Jacques, in support of something she is passionate about feels “amazing.”

“It just amazes me how people come together as one, as a family, and just help us raise money for a great organization,” Hamilton said. “… It’s just amazing how people will come out and help us, and they don’t realize what $1 will do; $1 can go a long way, and it does not just help myself or my teammate — it helps all the athletes in Daviess County and et cetera ….

“I just love it.”

King finds that “now is a time more than ever to really broker relationships outside of law enforcement.”

“... We do so much in our community … and I think this is another layer that we can add to show that we care,” he said. “... Although (there’s) sometimes you do turn on the news channels and it seems like it’s police going rogue or perhaps they’re maybe showing some bad stories in law enforcement, there’s so many good stories; and I can just say for our agency alone, we do many good things for the community because the community we police is a community we live in and love ….”

For those who may not have been able to attend “Cover the Cruiser” in Owensboro, King said people can attend the remaining events taking place until April 27 by finding the participating posts and locations at kentuckystatepolice.ky.gov.

Donations are also being accepted by SOKY at soky.org.