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05-04-11-special_olympics_logo.jpgOn April 13, Methodist University hosted the Cumberland County Special Olympics. Not only was is a great day for the athletes, it was a heartwarming day for their families and the spectators too.

“We had close to 200 athletes, maybe a little more. It was a lot of fun. We even had the E.E. Smith High School band come out and join us for the opening ceremony,” said Brad Melvin, assistant recreational center supervisor for Fayetteville/Cumberland County Parks and Rec. He added that the contestants had a lot of fun because they not only get a chance to come out and compete, but everybody goes away with something. They always get a medal or a ribbon.

“My favorite thing as the volunteer coordinator is that I get a chance to work with the volunteers. The way the volunteers interact with the contestants is great,” said Melvin.

“It gives the kids something to look forward to, and I think it means even more to the volunteers than it does the kids. The kids put a smile on everyone’s face, the way they work so hard and compete.”

Events like this are important to the athletes and the community alike. Not only does it give the community a chance to cheer the olympians on and to watch them succeed, it rewards the hard work and training that the athletes have put into their event.

On May 7, Gifts Galore and S.O. Much More Shopping Expo is set to take place at the Dorothy Gilmore Therapeutic Recreation Center. The event runs from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and admission is free.

Started 2009 to raise funds in support of Cumberland County’s Special Olympics, the mission of Gifts Galore is “to provide all citizens with intellectual disabilities the opportunity to become useful, productive citizens who are respected in our area.”

The shopping spree is held twice a year, the first Saturday in May and the first Saturday in Dec. Home-based businesses and artisans show up and sell a variety of great products and the money received from the vendor booth rentals all goes right back into the Special Olympics. They’ve got everything from hand bags and home decor items to skin care and scrap-booking products.

The money raised will be used to for the special olympics program to put on and attend different events throughout the county and to travel to the state level events.

The state level games will be held on June 3-5 in the Raleigh/Cary area, and Cumberland County will be well represented. “We have, including our coaches and athletes, about 100 people or so,” said Melvin.

With more than 300 athletes across Cumberland County the Special Olympics has a lot of work to do every year. The fact that the organization operates solely on donations, can make it tough to meet their goals sometimes, that is why events like this are so important to the programs. Donations are accepted year round. For more info or to make a donation call the Cumberland County Special Olympics at 433-1000.

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