Special Olympians host fund-raising festival

The Special Olympics of Northern Arizona has decided to sponsor an annual fundraiser, the first being held in Camp Verde on Saturday, Sept. 6, to help defray the cost of transportation, uniforms, equipment, meals and lodging at their annual meets.

The Special Olympics of Northern Arizona has decided to sponsor an annual fundraiser, the first being held in Camp Verde on Saturday, Sept. 6, to help defray the cost of transportation, uniforms, equipment, meals and lodging at their annual meets.

When the athletes of the 2008 Olympics assumed the world stage earlier this month, the entire corporate world stood beside them throwing money at their feet.

It was a testament to the rewards and prestige we accord the best of the best.

But what about the rest of the rest?

What about those athletes who will never see the world stage -- those who by fate or fortune are denied the physical attributes most of us take for granted -- those who often struggle to carry out life's basic tasks.

What about the Special Olympians?

Who pays their way?

Just like the big boys and girls in Beijing, they posses that the spirit to compete -- the same spirit to do better -- the same spirit to be recognized for a job well done.

And just like the big boys and girls in Beijing, when they do gather to compete, they need a ride, they need something to eat, they need uniforms and equipment, and they need a place to stay.

Corporate and private donations help pay for the meets, but Special Olympians are always in need of money to get there.

There are 322 Special Olympians in Yavapai County. Of that, 157 live in the Verde Valley. It takes about $30,000 every year to see they make it to the field.

This year, for the first time, the Special Olympics of Northern Arizona is hosting a huge community fund-raiser, with the hope that it becomes an annual event to not only raise money but also community awareness of their organization.

Called the Family Fun Festival, the fundraiser will take place on Saturday, Sept. 6, from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Civic Center grounds on Main Street in downtown Camp Verde.

It will start with a pancake breakfast and include a rummage sale, musical entertainment, craft vendors and lots of kids activities such as Magical Michael Steel and his yoyo show.

But perhaps the biggest draw will be the raffle.

Event organizers have received a number of generous items to raffle off.

They include several golf packages including a $400 foursome at Oak Creek Country Club. There are dinners, hotel getaways, golf lessons, bike rentals, pedicures, manicures, gift certificates, carwashes and plenty more.

"Last year we got a last minute donation from the Phoenix Coyotes. It was the only way were able to pay our way. This year and for years to come we hope this event makes us self-sustaining, and we hope the public will help get us there," says Mary Nunn.

Organizers are still soliciting additional raffle items and items for the rummage sale. If you can help, please call (928) 284-5155 or 567-2256.

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