“Through the power of sports, people with intellectual disabilities discover new strengths and abilities, skills and success.”
That’s what it says on the Special Olympics website at www.specialolympics.org. Donna McGuire, fundraising coordinator for Special Olympics Carroll County, agrees.
“Special Olympics holds their games at Westminster High School every spring for all the kids in Carroll County who are in the adaptive physical education program,” she said. “The looks on their faces when they win, or when they do something that they didn’t know they could do, is worth every hour we put into this.”
According to McGuire, parents don’t pay a dime for this day or for ongoing sports throughout the year. That’s where fundraising comes into play.
“We feed about 1,100 people that day,” she said. “The community steps up to donate food for that. We pay for the buses, medals, shirts, everything. A lot of people don’t know there are also sports going on outside this event, too, and it doesn’t cost the parents. We know what it costs to raise a child with a disability.”
One of their big fundraisers is coming up.
Now is the time to get your tickets for Special Olympics Carroll County’s annual Spring Designer Bag Bingo and vendor event, helping the special athletes in our own community.
“This is our ninth year,” McGuire said. “We used to have one in the fall, but we have gone to two each year because people asked for that.
“Carroll County people are amazing. They love our athletes!”
The bingo will be held on Saturday, March 9, inside the Shipley Arena at the Carroll County Agriculture Center. Doors open at 4 p.m. for vendor shopping with bingo beginning at 7 p.m. The cost is $18 in advance or $20 at the door.
“People can pay $5 at the door to just come in and shop the vendors and not play bingo,” McGuire said. “We have between 30 and 75 vendors, annually.”
Look for LulaRoe, Tupperware, Pampered Chef, Scentsy, Color Street, and what McGuire says are a “ton of craft vendors. We have a vendor with sunglasses, a coffee lady, a gentleman with funnel cakes, handmade chocolates, and so much more,” she said.
Tickets for bingo include 20 games of regular bingo. Extra packets cost $5. Look for specials and raffles, too.
“All the specials are designer bags, but these will be the more expensive bags,” McGuire said. “One is a big Vera Bradley Weekender tote that we’ll fill with things for the beach. The bag itself is worth $150 to $200. We’ll also have a Coach bag with a coffee and tea items, and we really stuff our bags!”
Look for five raffles as well, with raffle tickets costing $1 each, 6 for $5 or 20 for $10.
“Michaels donates three baskets to us each year and we raffle those off,” McGuire said, adding that there will be a baby basket with items for a newborn, a laundry basket full of towels and laundry items and one more. “We also have designer bags — a Disney bag, one filled with Orioles memorabilia and a grill bag with grilling tools, smores and cookout stuff.
“Every basket or bag has a theme. This time we are going to try a lottery scratch off tree, too. We will clip on $200 in scratch off tickets, and we’ll raffle that off for $5 a ticket.”
McGuire’s husband is the bingo caller and she said they pull a large crowd. At the fall bingo there were close to 500 people. That many people bring an appetite, so food will be offered for sale.
“We’ll have chicken tenders and fries, barbecue, hot dogs, pizza, soft pretzels, nachos and cheese, candy and chips, and beverages,” she said. “So many people have different tastes, and some have allergies, so we try to offer a lot. This year we are going to add a vegetable tray with ranch dipping sauce, too.”
McGuire explained why this bingo is important.
“My husband and I have a child who has Downs Syndrome. Our son is 27 and has been in Special Olympics for 19 years,” she said. “We have 175 athletes just in Carroll County with 17 sports. We pay for all the equipment and all the uniforms, and we are all volunteers. None of us gets paid.
“Special Olympics is strictly donation-based. This is about giving them that opportunity. We all feel that way.”
Reserve tickets in advance by calling 443-507-6010 until Friday March 8, and on the day of the event by calling 443-201-4681 or 410-236-1571.
The Carroll County Agriculture Center and Shipley Arena is located at 706 Agriculture Center Lane in Westminster.