Special Olympics team needs community’s help to get to National Games

Karassa Stinchcomb
Posted 5/30/18

FLEMING ISLAND – Eleven Clay County residents are headed to Seattle, Wash. in July for the Special Olympics USA.

The team, which is made up of two coaches, four partners and five athletes, will …

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Special Olympics team needs community’s help to get to National Games

Posted

FLEMING ISLAND – Eleven Clay County residents are headed to Seattle, Wash. in July for the Special Olympics USA.

The team, which is made up of two coaches, four partners and five athletes, will be competing in volleyball and track and field. This year’s USA Games will also celebrate Special Olympics’ global 50th Anniversary.

Despite making it to Nationals, the team is struggling to raise enough money to go to make the trip. They need to raise $15,400 and have only raised about 48 percent – $7,435, according to Ronna Smith, the county director and volleyball coach.

“We have held several fundraising events, cruise-ins, car washes, online donations and tip-a-cop, but we still need more,” Smith said.

Zach Fishburn, 23, an athlete, has competed in the Special Olympics for five years and competes in volleyball, football, bowling and golf. He competes to meet people, have fun and see if someone can push him past his best.

He was shocked when he learned he was going to Nationals.

“It was definitely a surprise. When we got to camp, we didn’t know we were going to make it, and when we did, we were excited,” Fishburn said. “We win as a team, we lose as a team.”

This year’s trip will mark Zachary’s second visit to the Special Olympics’ USA Games. He first attended in 2014 where he competed in golf.

The Clay County Sheriff’s Office has helped bring awareness and funding to the organization.

Christopher Padgett, a law enforcement officer, has been involved with the organization since 1999, but participated in his first Torch Run in 2009.

“The Torch Run brings awareness to the community. We stop traffic and make people stop and look at what we’re doing,” Padgett said.” Tip-a-Cop brings both awareness and funding.”

Tip-a-Cop is usually held at the Fleming Island Longhorn Steakhouse, and for three nights, officers help serve tables, take orders, run food to tables and everything else a server does. After the guest receives their check, they have the opportunity to place an extra donation to the Special Olympics. All of the money goes to the Special Olympics organization.

Nicole Stanley, an athlete from Orange Park, has competed in the Special Olympics for 14 years in a variety of sports: volleyball, football, golf, softball and bowling. She has been to a lot of events and loves making new friends.

“It’s a new state and place to meet new friends,” Stanley said. “I am really excited!”

Sarah Redmond, a partner, has volunteered in the Special Olympics for nine years.

“I’m most excited about competing as a team. Everything we’ve worked for, thus far, being put into play and competing as one unified team.”

Fishburn, Padgett, Redmond, Smith and Stanley all have the same message for the Clay County community: donate and volunteer.

“You might not think there’s a lot you can do, but there are so many volunteers needed for every sport, every county game, we could always use more,” Redmond said. “You won’t be disappointed because it’ll open your eyes to see what a great organization this is.

The live ceremony is scheduled to air on ESPN July 1 and the Games run until July 7.

If you would like to get involved in Special Olympics, contact Ronna Smith at rsmith@specialolympicsclaycounty.org.

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