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Where S.W.A.T. Teams Meet Bermuda Shorts

Third annual Backyard BBQ raises money, awareness for police foundation.

Alexandria hosts a myriad of philanthropic events throughout the year, and many of them share a certain fashion resemblance: beautiful gowns, black ties and freshly shined dress shoes.

But for the annual Backyard BBQ, Social and Auction, co-host Shawn McLaughlin said it’s time to leave the elegant threads in the closet; the invitation features that rarest of rare phrases for a local charity event: "Attire: Casual."

"Isn’t that nice?" said McLaughlin, who will co-host the third annual Backyard BBQ to benefit the Alexandria Police Foundation. "If someone wants to come in their Bermuda shorts, do it. If they want to wear their wing tips and black socks too, I don’t care — whatever makes you happy."

McLaughlin, founder of McLaughlin Investments of 1421 Prince Street, is the chairman of the police foundation’s executive committee, having been recruited to the position by former Police Chief Charles E. Samarra. "We were just brainstorming one foundation meeting, and we wanted to do something different than those [events] that are held in a banquet room in a hotel. Something a little more casual," he recalled.

According Ann Dorman, who sits on the foundation’s board of directors, the Alexandria Police Foundation supports activities of the police department that wouldn’t necessarily be in its city budget. Those activities have included stress management workshops, identity theft seminars that were free to community, the purchase of two Segways for parades and for use at T.C. Williams, scholarship programs for officers and paying for medical insurance for retired police dogs.

"Normally, the officer would have the responsibility. That can become quite costly, and our public safety officials don’t make that much money," she said.

Three years ago, the foundation decided to raise more money to support those initiatives. "So this backyard barbeque and auction was created," said Dorman.

THIS YEAR’S Backyard BBQ, Social and Auction takes place on Sunday, June 10 from 4:30 – 7:30 p.m. at the home of Shawn and Cassie McLaughlin, located at 1615 N. Frost St. in Alexandria. There will be free parking and a shuttle bus at Temple Beth El, located at 3830 Seminary Road. The bus will run from 4 p.m. until 8 p.m.

Tickets to the event are $75 per person, and those attending are asked to RSVP by June 1. Checks, money orders or Visa and MasterCard payments for the event can be mailed to:

Charles Collum

c/o Burke & Herbert Bank

PO Box 268

Alexandria, Va. 22313

More information about the Alexandria Police Foundation can be found be visiting www.alexandriapolicefoundation.org. Call Ann Dorman at 703-626-1266 for more information about the Backyard BBQ.

As in previous years, the Backyard BBQ will offer the opportunity to see police equipment and personnel up close. The force’s new mobile command center will be on display at Temple Beth El. At the McLaughlins’ house, there will be the chance to see S.W.A.T. equipment, police motorcycles, police K-9 dogs and an armored police tank that McLaughlin said attracts a crowd. "It’s just a bunch of metal on four wheels," he said. "Every guy turns himself into a kid again."

Food and drink are included in the price of admission, with catering by Bubba Mike’s, the BBQ catering arm of Mango Mike’s restaurant.

"We have done a number of fundraisers here at Mango Mike's for the police foundation and I have worked with Ann Dorman in the past on First Night Alexandria, so they thought we were a good choice," said Mike Anderson, owner of Mango Mike’s (4580 Duke St.) "Plus, we’re big fans of the Alexandria Police department and are always glad to help."

Anderson said he’ll be serving up hand-pulled Carolina pork and homemade BBQ sauce; buffalo wings; baby-back ribs; rum BBQ’d black beans; coleslaw; and bread pudding with bourbon sauce.

THE CHARITY AUCTION this year will feature several items donated by local organizations and the police force.

Dorman said that Jack Taylor of Alexandria Toyota is auctioning off a day cruise on the Chesapeake Bay on his 61-foot motor yacht. There will be a day with the chief of police auctioned off, as well as the chance to take part in a police simulator that trains officers on whether or not to fire their weapon in a given situation. "It’s absolutely so incredibly real," said Dorman.

There will be live and silent auctions throughout the event. Thanks to local sponsors — which include the Gazette this year — covering some costs, the last two years of the Backyard BBQ have netted over $50,000, according to Dorman.

For McLaughlin, the event is an opportunity to raise money to support the men and women of the police department — as well as a time to thank them for their service face-to-face.

"It’s a chance to meet them in a relaxed atmosphere," he said. "You really don’t like to meet them when you’re being stopped."