Popular T-shirt leads fundraising for slain officers' families

ST. PETERSBURG — Detective Ricardo Lopez wanted to do his part after two police officers died last week in a violent clash with a wanted fugitive.

His idea: sell T-shirts memorializing Sgt. Thomas J. Baitinger and canine Officer Jeffrey A. Yaslowitz to raise money for their families. Lopez thought 500 sounded like a good number.

That was 10,000 T-shirts ago.

"I can't believe the outpouring of support from the community," Lopez said. "We can't get these things out fast enough. They're usually flying off the table."

That's just one of the many ways the Tampa Bay area is raising money for the families of the two officers, who died Jan. 24.

The second-annual Wing Fest outdoor food and music festival at Vinoy Park on Saturday changed its name to the first-ever Bait and Yaz Wing Fest in honor of the officers. The Vinoy Club will hold a raffle and auction for the officers Tuesday evening at Alfresco's at the Vinoy Renaissance Resort. And Feather Sound Country Club will host a memorial fundraising golf tournament in honor of the officers for the next five years. More events are in the works.

The total amount raised isn't available yet. The families have yet to discuss with officials what they will receive from federal, state and city funds as well as insurance and pension benefits. But thousands of dollars in donations have already come in.

Each of the slain officers' families will receive $10,000 from an annual dinner honoring law enforcement and emergency personnel on Jan. 28 hosted by Pinellas County Commissioner John Morroni. The dinner was started after the 1993 fatal shooting of Belleair police Officer Jeffery W. Tackett. The venue, the Hilton hotel in Carillon, will also contribute $5,000 to the families.

But the black T-shirts have become the most popular means of rasing money. The Suncoast Police Benevolent Association is taking online orders (www.suncoastpba.com) and plans to print kid's sizes.

Each T-shirt is $15. All profits after expenses go to the families. Mark Marland, a St. Petersburg detective and union president, said the goal is for the T-shirts to raise six-figures.

He said the union is vetting events before lending its name out. Anyone is free to raise money however they wish, but he warned that the union will investigate reports of abuse.

"The PBA will not come knocking on your door," he said. "If anyone calls you, you should know right off the bat it's not legit."

• • •

The St. Petersburg City Council on Thursday held its first official meeting since the officers died.

Their first order of business was to honor them, issuing two resolutions of bereavement for Sgt. Baitinger and Officer Yaslowitz. Each council member spoke about grief and prayers for the officers' families and the St. Petersburg Police Department.

"It's been a long two weeks," Mayor Bill Foster said.

The students of the University of South Florida St. Petersburg also held a candlelight vigil for the officers Thursday evening on the campus' Harborwalk plaza. More than 200 people attended.

Relatives and friends of the fallen officers also invited the community to a City Hall prayer event at noon today. The effort is being led by Unity in our Community, a campaign dedicated to showing officers how much they are appreciated.

"When one family member grieves, we all grieve," said Tamaira Heyward, the wife of a St. Petersburg officer. "When one member of our family hurts, we all hurt."

Times staff writers David DeCamp, Emily Nipps and Danny Valentine contributed to this report.

Where to donate

Donations: Contribute to the Jeffrey Yaslowitz/Thomas Baitinger Memorial Fund at any Wachovia Bank or Floridacentral Credit Union location.

Donate by mail: Send donations to Suncoast Law Enforcement Charities; 14141 46th St. N, Suite #1205; Clearwater, FL 33762. Call (727) 532-1722 for more information.

Memorial T-shirts: Contact the Suncoast Police Benevolent Association at the address and phone number above. Cash and credit cards only. Online orders using PayPal can be made at: www.suncoastpba.com.

Flu shots: Lakeside Occupational Medical Centers is offering $5 flu shots to anyone 16 or older this month. All proceeds go to the families. Check www.lakesideoccmed.com for Pinellas and Hillsborough locations.

First Friday: T-shirts will be sold and donations taken during the monthly downtown event tonight from 5 to 10:30 p.m. between Second and Third streets S on Central Avenue.

The First-Ever Bait and Yaz Wing Fest: The music and food festival will start at 11 a.m. Saturday at Vinoy Park in St. Petersburg. Memorial T-shirts will be on sale.

Woodlawn Car Wash: The T-shirts will be on sale this weekend at the car wash at 2300 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. St. N, St. Petersburg.

Honda Gold Wing Event: T-shirts will be on sale at the event this weekend at Quaker Steak and Lube, 10400 49th Street N, Pinellas Park.

Vinoy Club Raffle and Auction: The event is 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday at Alfresco's at the Vinoy Renaissance Resort, 501 Fifth Ave. NE. T-shirts will be sold. For information call Scott Stewart at (727) 821-0622 during business hours.

Charity Concert to Benefit Families of Fallen Officers: Local bands Floydsum, Struck!, the Relatives and the Tampa Bay Blues Brothers are scheduled to appear on Feb. 12 from 3 to 9 p.m. at Highlander Park, 1920 Pinehurst Road in Dunedin.

2011 Tampa Bay Rays Fan Fest: A portion of the proceeds will go to the families. The Feb. 19 event is from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Tropicana Field. Donors can get autographs of Rays players and coaches. Check www.raysbaseball.com.

The Sgt. Thomas Baitinger/K9 Officer Jeffrey Yaslowitz Memorial Golf Tournament: Hosted Feb. 21 by Feather Sound Country Club at 2201 Feather Sound Drive, Clearwater. Shotgun starts at 8 a.m. and 1 p.m. Entry fee is $125. All proceeds go to the families. Call (727) 532-1722 for information.

What can I do? If you have an idea for your own charity event, contact the Suncoast PBA/Suncoast Law Enforcement Charities at (727) 532-1722. Publicize your event with the St. Petersburg Times/tampabay.com at local@sptimes.com.

Popular T-shirt leads fundraising for slain officers' families 02/03/11 [Last modified: Thursday, February 3, 2011 10:50pm]

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