WOONSOCKET – Here’s a sure sign of spring: Members of the Woonsocket Police Department are gearing up for another installment of the annual trek to Washington, D.C., known as Copswalk.
Since 2000, the fundraiser has generated over $90,000 for the Wisconsin-based Concerns of Police Survivors, a non-profit that provides counseling, scholarships, family retreats and other supports for relatives of police killed in the line of duty.
Last year alone, Copswalk raised a record $21,000 with a series of special events and pledges. Lt. Edward Cunanan, who’s spearheading the drive, doesn’t want to raise expectations for another record-breaking year, but he says he’s pleased to see the fundraiser chugging along during these tough financial times.
“We just want to keep it going and give something,” he says. “We’re trying to keep it from getting too big so we can manage it. It’s hard to do with just us, the department.”
The police force is operating with 15 fewer officers than peak strength under union contracts and temporary federal supports, or about 90 officers in all. The reduced manpower makes it harder than ever to free up 13 officers who will take part in the week-long walk to Washington that coincides with National Police Week.
Participants walk in teams of three, but only one member is on foot, either walking or jogging, at any given time. Teams cover a total of 12 miles before they’re relieved by the next shift. Each participant covers an average of about 34 miles on foot before reaching the destination.
One of the biggest expenses of Copswalk for the last couple of years has been the cost of renting a camper or mobile home to use as a staging area where participants can rest up and refuel when they’re not on foot. The camper is always 12 miles ahead of the boots-on-the-ground crew. A trailing safety cruiser with activated emergency lights brings up the rear of the caravan.
“We’ve really tried hard to get someone to donate,” said Cunanan. “One upon a time we did have a sponsor for an RV but we lost it and we’re looking for another. It’s a major expense, about $1,500 for the week.”
This year’s event commences May 9 with a departure ceremony from Woonsocket police headquarters on Clinton Street. Much of the money comes from pledges participants raise just for taking part in the walk, but in recent years Copswalk has added a few preliminary events to boost the kitty.
This year’s roster includes:
• Shreddin for COPS, Saturday, April 13, 9-1 p.m. In partnership with Doc Shreddin Corp., the police invited the general public to bring all their sensitive documents to the police station to be shredded, $5 a box.
• Bowl-a Thon at Walnut Hill Bowl, April 14, 4:30 p.m. Tickets, $25 each, cover shoe rental, a slice of pizza and cold draft at the Back Alley Pub, which is located in the same building. Winners get a trophy.
• Tag day on April 20, all day. Motorists will find police collecting donations at certain road crossings in the city.
• Copswalk Comedy Dinner, at the CYO Center, Federal Street, featuring comics Jon Fisch and Orlando Baxter. Raffles, prizes and dinner catered by The Burrito Company, $30.
This list of participating officers in this year’s Copswalk includes Cunanan, Sgt. Sean Carpenter, Officer Gabe Koneczny, Officer Joey Brazil, Officer Jim Dybala, Officer Zach Bienkiewicz, Detective Peter Menard, Detective Pat McGourty, Detective Justin Glode, Lt. Brad Scully, Officer Mike Flood, Lt. Norman Galipeau and Lt. Todd Boisvert.
For information about sponsorships or pledges, contact Cunanan at 766-1212 or check out www.wpdcopswalk.com  online.