Special Olympics continues to grow in Wagoner and that's why the drive to get sponsors to raise money is important, Tammy McDaris, the Wagoner Public Schools director of Special Services, said this week.
"We're a small program that's trying to build," she said. "We have 34 athletes who are Special Olympians this year. We've almost doubled in size from last year and we're really excited about that. We're hoping to have a huge year this year."
The year kicked off this week with the sale of sponsorships to raise money for the program. Individuals, families and businesses can donate in five different increments, or tiers, from $50 to $250.
Morgan Murphy is a special education teacher and the fundraising coordinator. She's already hard at work to get sponsorships.
"In most athletic departments, football and basketball do similar things, but we haven't done something like this in Special Olympics," she said. "We wanted to do something like this to include all businesses or if a family wants to have a sponsorship.
"Our focus is on the athlete. It's all for them. It gives them the feeling they're included in something bigger than themselves. It also teaches them leadership, accountability and responsibility as well as life lessons they will take for the rest of their lives. Each athlete is special who deserves recognition."
Special Services has other fundraisers during the year, including a Back to School event, Evening with Santa, Spaghetti Supper in conjunction with the town's Masonic Lodge and a Bingo Night.
McDaris, in her fourth year as Special Services director, said sports are being added to the program this year.
"We're adding bowling," she said. "We hope to add bocce ball and softball in the spring. This is very powerful to me. Just last week, we had our kids at the local bowling alley, and one of our high school boys said he was excited because it was the most fun he's had. That makes all of this worth it."
Irvie Orton and Sherrie Moody are the coaches of the Special Olympians.
Special Olympics started as summer day camp by Sargent and Eunice Shriver in Maryland in 1968.
You can help
WHAT: Wagoner Public School Special Olympics fundraiser.
WHERE: Wagoner High School, 308 N.E. Second St.
WHEN: Until Oct. 11.
INFORMATION: Morgan Murphy, (918) 485-5553, ext. 2631, or Wagoner Special Olympics Facebook page.