Special Olympics Arizona needs support for its non-state funded organization in order to hold yearly programs for the 12,800 athletes involved.
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The organization is funded statewide by donations from charitable organizations and private donors.
According to Tracy McCarty, the grants manager of Special Olympics Arizona, there is about an 8 percent increase in athletes per year.
Because Special Olympics Arizona serves more athletes each year, its budget has grown.
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“Many funders have decreased the amount of funding they provide. We have had to increase the number of funders we ask for support in order to make up the difference,” McCarty said.
Holly Thompson, the Coronado area director of Special Olympics Arizona, covering Pima County, Santa Cruz County, Cochise County, and part of Pinal County, has been involved with Special Olympic programs nationally for more than 20 years and here in Tucson for four years.
Thompson mentioned that the bad economy does not make promotions or raising proceeds easy for its special athletes.
She mentioned that last year, the Tucson Polar Plunge was able to raise $22,000 with more than 92 participants for one of its yearly events known as the Tucson Polar Plunge held at the Breakers Water Park in Marana.
This year, the Tucson Polar Plunge has raised more than $7,000 with only 66 participants. Thompson said she hopes they can raise at minimum $10,000 for the special athletes.
Wally Latall, Prescott Amateur Softball Association state umpire in chief, is a member of the games management team. Latall has been involved with Special Olympics for almost 30 years as an umpire.
Latall has had the opportunity to work with Special Olympians in speedball, wheelchair softball and competitive softball.
“To be able to see special athletes physically and mentally challenged, and watch them compete, they work as a team, and it’s so rewarding,” Latall said. “Many can learn from them.”
As for Phoenix, Kim Baldwin, assistant principal for ministry of Brophy College Preparatory, gives special athletes a “day of fun” which includes drills, dancing and games at their annual Special Olympics Game Day.
Baldwin invites schools across the city and is able to give special athletes and the students of Brophy a day to educate themselves and bond with each other.
“Seeing what the athletes bring out of our boys is really special they are educating our boys,” Baldwin said.
Special Olympic Arizona hopes the economy will get better so donors can raise more funds and host more events for the athletes.
“Different schools can create a different model, this one works for us, as long as the end goal is the same by everyone feeling welcomed and no different than anyone else,” Baldwin said.