On Aug. 4, the Lineboro-Manchester Lions Club Pool will host its fourth annual swim party for Special Olympics athletes and their families.
"The Special Olympics is very dear to our hearts," said Joe Bach, pool committee chairman for the Lions Club. "We put a lot of time and effort into helping others - it's one of the main reasons for the pool's existence - and Special Olympics is something we have sort of adopted over the years."
The party, which will run from 5 p.m. until 9 p.m., will feature food, drinks, music provided by a DJ and all the amenities of the Lions Club pool.
The swim party has its origins with Steve Swam, one of the coaches of the Special Olympics ski team, who years ago was talking with a number of athletes' parents about how he also volunteered at the pool and how nice it would be to have an end of the season pool party.
One of those parents was Debbie Gemmill, whose son Ralph was a skier, as well as a swimmer, equestrian and kayak athlete.
"Steve and I talked about doing a swim party for the skiers and it quickly became a swim party for all of the athletes of [Special Olympics of Carroll County] and their family and friends," Gemmill said. "Joe Bach came on board and helped to make it what it is today, involving his entire family and the pool community."
Bach said that he is glad the Lions Club can provide the pool and atmosphere for the event.
"The Lions Club motto is very simple. We serve. We reach out to the community and this is another way to do that," Bach said. "I think the families and athletes have fun because they feel like they can fit in with everybody. It's almost like a family get-together."
DJ Thumper, also known as Glenn Krout, has provided the music for the event since its inception. Krout said that when he was initially asked to DJ for the event, he wasn't sure if he would be able to do it.
"I had a child who had cerebral palsy and passed away ... I didn't know if I would be able to emotionally handle [the event]," Krout said. "It's turned out to be one of the highlights of what I do as a DJ. The athletes are wonderful people and it kind of re-energizes me."
Krout said that as a result of his volunteering for the event, he has picked up paying DJ gigs and that when any of the athletes see him in the community, they make sure to call out and thank him.
"It's just an outpouring of love and appreciation. It's amazing to me," Krout said. "It's one of those things you start doing just because you want to and it ends up rewarding you in ways you never expected."
One new element this year will be the newly installed ADA compliant lifts in the pools, which Bach said will enhance access to the pool.
"We have the ability to get anyone with special needs in and out of the pool quickly, safely and efficiently," Bach said. "It could be an athlete or even the parent of a Special Olympics athlete who needs assistance to get in and out of the pool."
According to Swam, the event is promoted in the Special Olympics newsletter in Carroll County and attendance has been growing.
"Each year it's gotten a little bit better," Swam said. "Last year we did have some rain that caused some people not to show up. I would say 20 to 25 athletes plus their families ... it's about 200 people there at the pool."
The rain date for the event will be Aug. 11, and those who wish to attend are asked to contact Swam or Gemmill by Aug. 1.
Admission is free for any Special Olympics athlete and $5 for each of their friends or family.
Ultimately, Gemmill said, for the athletes and families, the chance to have a fun evening at the pool is part and parcel of the mission and importance of the Special Olympics themselves.
"The important thing about the parties and Special Olympics ... it's about being with friends and really having a life like everybody else. Something to do and something to look forward to," Gemmill said. "You will see at the pool our wall of summer fun, with plaques holding pictures of the past swim parties hanging proudly on the wall across from the concession stand. The pictures symbolize great times, great friends and great fun."