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Gold Medal Gala Benefits Special Olympics

A special event to celebrate and support the Capital Region's Special Olympians takes place this Saturday evening (7/11/15).

First, let's clarify exactly what the Special Olympics is all about.

“The Special Olympics is a program that helps people with intellectual disabilities to garner more self-esteem, to meet friends, to do those things that sometimes even their parents didn’t think that they could do.”

That’s Volunteer Anika Fields.  She said, in contrast to the International Olympic Games, Special Olympic competitions go on constantly at the county, regional and state levels.

“The biggest competition we have is in April,” she said.  “It’s track and field, tennis, soccer and bocce.  The other sports, which happen all during the year, are basketball, bowling and golf.  In fact, golf is going on now, swimming is going on now and stand-up paddleboard is going on now.  There’s powerlifting, there’s flag football, there’s gymnastics.  All through the year, there’s something going on and they all go on to compete at the state level.”

All of this, Fields said, at no charge to participants.

“Neither the parents nor the athletes have to pay for anything.  They don’t have to pay for uniforms, they don’t pay to go on trips, they don’t pay for food, they don’t pay for anything. So that means that each county that’s involved in Special Olympics has to raise their own money.”

To keep costs down, everyone working on Leon County's Special Olympics, with the exception of a single part-time staffer, is a volunteer.  One of Fields' biggest jobs as a volunteer is to coordinate the Gold Medal Gala event that happens this Saturday evening.

“This is our eighth year having this,” she said.  “We’re having it at the Capital City Country Club.  The athletes really like it because they like to dance.  We have a program and this year our guest speaker is Coach Jaime Shupe who is the head baseball coach at FAMU.  We also have awards so it’s called the ‘Gold Medal Gala and Awards.’  These are awards for people who have done things throughout the year.  We have our Athlete of the Year, we have Coach of the Year.”

The party starts at 6 p.m. Saturday there are still tickets to be had.  But since the advance ticket deadline has passed, Fields is taking the orders herself.

“Call me directly at: 850-510-4277.”

And gala goers need to know that their presence will help make possible some of the biggest smiles ever seen.