By Charlotte Underwood
JACKSBORO, TN (WLAF) – After a 15 year hiatus, Special Olympics is being re-established in Campbell County. Brandon Johnson is heading up the local efforts as area director to get the program up and running again.
Representatives from Special Olympics Tennessee were in Campbell County on Tuesday to meet with multiple county officials, and also hosted a community meeting to gather support for the program.
According to Johnson, the plan is to hold the first Special Olympics event in Campbell County in May.
Regional Manager with Special Olympics Tennessee Brenna Soriano and Jennifer McAfee with Law Enforcement Torch Run met with Campbell County School Director Jennifer Fields, as well as County Mayor Jack Lynch. Soriano and McAfee also presented at the South Campbell County Rotary Club luncheon. Additional meetings were conducted with the Campbell County Sheriff’s Department, along with police representatives from Campbell County’s municipalities. Tuesday evening concluded with a community meeting at Mana House Coffee to rally support and get the word out.
To get the program going, fundraising needs to happen and volunteers and coaches need to be in place. “Community support and support from the schools is key,” Soriano said.
She, along with McAfee and Johnson said Campbell County’s school leaders, and County officials were in “full support” of the effort.
“We’re excited to get started back in Campbell County, ” Soriano said.
Special Olympics Tennessee is a 501 (c3) and is supported completely through fundraising and grants.
“We never charge athletes or a family to participate and compete in Special Olympics,” Soriano said.
There are multiple coaching and volunteer opportunities needing filled to get the program started.
Special Olympics Tennessee is open to ages 8 and up. Their mission is to provide year round sports and competitions for individuals with intellectual disabilities.
“It’s all about encouraging, inclusion and acceptance and also focusing on healthy lifestyles,” Soriano said, explaining that it was “more than sports” with additional programs such as the healthy athletes program that helps provide free physicals for athletes and more.
Sports programs and competitions include flag football, basketball, bowling, track and field, tennis, golf and others. Special Olympics Tennessee is looking to add cheerleading and pickle ball to sports as well. Winter sports competitions take place at Ober Gatlinburg.
There is also a young athletes program for ages two to seven years old “to work on gross motor skills and to promote getting ready for sports later on”, according to Soriano.
Special Olympics Tennessee is also starting up a young professional’s board for the East Tennessee Region. This board is open to ages 20 to 39 and will focus on volunteering and fundraising for Special Olympics Tennessee in the East Tennessee Region.
If interested in joining the Young Professionals board, contact Brenna Soriano at bsoriano@SpecialOlympicstn.org.
Johnson said meetings on Tuesday went well and he looked forward to the continued support of the program.
“we had huge turnouts for our meetings. We’ve had great support with this so far and my hope is community members step up and help us raise funds to get this started. The goal is to get something up and going by May. One in five people in Campbell County has a disability; that’s why this is so important to get this going,” Johnson said.
The first event planned will be a Track and Field competition tentatively scheduled for mid May, according to Soriano,
“We need volunteers for the event, we need coaches and members to participate in the management team as well and to help fundraise,” Soriano said.
She said it’s an easy process of online training and a background check to get started as a coach or volunteer.
McFee spoke about multiple fundraising opportunities and how her organization helps raise funds for Special Olympics. Fundraising opportunities. For more information, visit HERE.
For more information on getting involved in Special Olympics Campbell County or making a fundraising donation, contact Johnson at 423.494.4894, and check it out on Facebook at Facebook.com/SOCampbellCounty. (WLAF NEWS PUBLISHED – 10/03/2022-6AM)