Nearly 100 students from 12 area schools descended on the Eufaula Community Center last week to participate in the Eufaula Area Special Olympics. This was the sixth straight year the Eufaula City Schools hosted the event.
Lynne Baker, Area Special Olympics coordinator, explained the event is a collaborative effort, made possible by the support of the community. “We have help from area businesses and the community itself with donations of funds, good and services. Without all the support, this event would not happen,” Baker said.
Malinda Golden, whose son, Michael, is a Special Olympian, saw a need for the event in the area and approached Baker about the possibility six years ago. The two teamed up and have been going strong ever since. Golden, an employee of Alabama Power, applied for and was awarded a grant from the Alabama Power Foundation to help with the costs. The pair didn’t stop there. Baker and Golden signed on many other supporters in the community whose backing has made the event a success year after year.
The city of Eufaula donated the use of the Community Center, and Sonic Drive-In provided lunch for the Olympians. “We found so much assistance for this project,” said Golden. “People are very willing to help. Walmart provided water and drinks for the athletes; Precision Body Works provided lunch for the volunteers; Hibbett Sports provided sports equipment and balloons; and Names, Frames and More donated the awards.”
“It is a community-wide effort,” said Baker. “Along with all the goods donated, we are staffed with volunteers. The Alabama Power Service Organization provided at least 20 volunteers and Eufaula High School sent volunteers from the Key Club, JRROTC, Cheerleaders and Tiger Reps. Abbeville High School brought their peer helpers and the Eufaula Elementary School sent their student council as a service-learning project. We had a lot of good help this year.”
Baker said the Special Olympics sanctions only two events per athlete, which creates a lot of spare time during the day. The Eufaula Area Special Olympics added several activities to keep the athletes active and more involved all day. Along with the standard events, the athletes could participate in frisbee throws, hula hoops, a bean bag toss, sit-ups and jumping jacks.
“This is their day to shine, and everybody is a winner,” Baker said. “They may not ever run a race at their school, but here they do, and who doesn’t love to be a winner?”