A California State Prison, Solano, Correctional Lieutenant is reaching out to others to try to rally support for the Special Olympics.
Lt. Marlaina Dernoncourt is the Administrative Assistant and Public Information Officer for CSP Solano, but a few weeks ago, she found herself representing the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation during the International Conference for the Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics.
Held Sept. 9-13 in New Orleans, Lt. Dernoncourt’s fundraising efforts for the Special Olympics were recognized as she was unanimously voted in as a member of the Executive Committee for the Northern California Law Enforcement Torch Run.
She was asked to do a presentation, along with the Special Olympics of Northern California staff, on “Connecting with Corrections” to assist correctional agencies across the country to increase their fundraising. The goal is to get executive staff as well as inmates involved in the efforts.
What started out as a few “Tip a Cop” fundraisers has grown into much more for Lt. Dernoncourt. Her mission to help the athletes started by simply showing up for the games.
She said after attending the Special Olympics games in the San Francisco Bay area, she was inspired to get more involved. So she rolled up her sleeves and enlisted the help of others in the prison.
“When I first started getting involved, I didn’t have a personal connection to it until I went out to the games and met the athletes,” she said. “Being law enforcement, we are like their heroes but they are my heroes. They are so cool.”
Lt. Dernoncourt said being able to do something positive takes the edge off a stressful job.
“Working in such a negative environment all the time it’s great to be able to give back to the community and help others,” she said.
Others who want to get involved should get support from the rest of their prison’s staff.
“You want to get your staff at the prison involved and excited because you are only one person. I reached out to Special Olympics directly and they did a presentation to our executive staff,” she said. “They brought an athlete so people could see who was being helped.”
Lt. Dernoncourt didn’t stop with the staff.
“Eventually, we got the inmates involved after a similar presentation. It’s a way for the inmates to give back to the community they’ve victimized,” she said. “We had hardened criminals in tears after connecting with these athletes. The inmates love it.”
She also recommends CDCR staff go to a Special Olympics event, in uniform, and help put a medal on an athlete.
“If staff can go out to an event and can medal an athlete after they’ve competed, it’s really neat,” Lt. Dernoncourt said. “It’s a really cool experience.”
Learn more about the Law Enforcement Torch Run at www.TorchRunCalifornia.com.