Texas Roadhouse holds fifth annual benefit lunch for Special Olympics Illinois

Officers from the Champaign Police Department, University of Illinois Police Department and Illinois State Troopers opened doors, directed traffic, and served food to help during the Special Olympics Illinois benefit lunch at Texas Roadhouse in Champaign on Friday, July 31.

By Mariah Schaefer

Local law enforcement officers from Champaign Police, University Police and Illinois State Police served and greeted customers at Texas Roadhouse’s fifth annual benefit lunch for Special Olympics Illinois on Friday.

“It’s a good cause. It’s fun,” said Sgt. Bruce Ramseyer of Champaign Police. “We really enjoy giving back, and we love the interaction with all the people that come out to support Special Olympics.”

According to Ramseyer, the benefit lunch was part of the Law Enforcement Torch Run, which raises money for Special Olympics Illinois year-round.

The restaurant in Champaign, which regularly opens at 4 p.m. on weekdays, served lunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Before the clock marked the starting time for the benefit lunch, several cars were already pulling into the restaurant’s parking lot. Inside, sounds of talking and bustling filled the building.

Servers left the kitchen carrying the same food arrangement: a pulled pork sandwich, corn and coleslaw.

“It’s just the easiest to maintain, and it’s the easiest to get out very fast,” said Damien Ware, service manager of the Champaign restaurant. “Everything else, we don’t want to drag people down. We want people to come out and donate to the Special Olympics, but I also want to give them enough time to get back to work or to get on with their day … It helps the flow go by pretty fast.”

He explained that the lunch was free, and customers were encouraged to donate any amount of money they wanted.

“Whatever they want to leave from the donations, we donate it back to the Special Olympics,” Ware said. “It’s a great cause. I know that my other Illinois stores do it as well … We enjoy doing it. It’s a good time and a little bit extra work, but what’s a little bit extra work when you’re giving back?”

Ware said in addition to the officers, Texas Roadhouse employees also volunteered their time to make sure the benefit lunch went smoothly.

One of those employees was Jen Chen, a bartender and server at the restaurant who has also volunteered at the benefit lunch in past years.

“It’s just awesome to see everybody here; everybody is always in a happy mood,” Chen said. “Just seeing how many people come out for just this cause is awesome, too. You see some of the people from Special Olympics come in, and we just see how much they love life.”

Ramseyer, who has been volunteering for Special Olympics Illinois for about 12 to 15 years, said the generosity of the town always surprises him every year.

For Ware, the number of guests who show up at Texas Roadhouse for the annual benefit lunch is surprising.

“The amount of people that come in as well as the amount of money that is donated keeps on growing, which is great,” he said. “The community is coming in to give back to something as in the Special Olympics, which is such a great cause.”

[email protected]