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Special Olympics of Carroll County spacing out pair of designer bag bingo fundraisers

Special Olympics of Carroll County will host its eighth annual designer bag bingo this month with a different approach from previous years, splitting it into two dates a week apart.

This year’s scaled-down event, which is normally held inside the Carroll County Agricultural Center, will be held Sept. 19 and Sept. 26 at 1 p.m. at the Westminster High School stadium parking lot in order to increase proper social distancing measures in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

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“We want people to feel more comfortable being outside,” said Donna McGuire, Special Olympics of Carroll County fundraising director and coach. "We’re going to social distance, we’ve got hand sanitizers and extra masks. We’re going to have everything that we would normally have inside, but we just weren’t open to having a lot of people.

“By being outside, we were able to break it up into two bingos so people would, again, feel safe.”

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McGuire said Special Olympics of Carroll County’s designer bag bingo normally has 400-500 people in attendance, so the staff added an extra date in order to spread people out.

There were discussions over the summer of whether this event would be able to take place and where it would be held, if approved by the Carroll County Health Department. McGuire said Special Olympics created a plan of action to present to the department that was approved, permitting them to move forward with the event.

McGuire said there are normally anywhere from 50 to 75 vendors for this event, but she was forced to cut that number to 10 this year. There will also be a limited concession stand, and no fried food will be provided.

The event will be covered with tents, and there will be four tables under each tent. Guests will be placed in groups of four to five people and will not be permitted to intermingle with other parties.

“It’s twice as much work for us,” McGuire said. “But it’s worth it.”

The pandemic took a toll on Special Olympics of Carroll County’s fundraising efforts this year, efforts that go to support more than 200 Special Olympics athletes and their sporting events. All organizational-related activities were forced to shut down when the pandemic hit the state in March, and only athletes who participated in sports such as golf, kayaking and track were permitted back June 30.

The 2020 Special Olympics Maryland Summer Games, the organization’s largest statewide event, was canceled this year. McGuire said many of the athletes had a difficult time understanding what the cancellations meant and why they were necessary.

“This way, we can get them outside,” McGuire said. “They’re doing something, they’re getting some exercise, they’re seeing their friends. We’re hoping that our next sport is bowling, so we’re working with the lanes to make sure we can do some type of social distance with every other lane, that sort of thing.”

McGuire said the organization’s next hope is to proceed with its basketball teams in November and with skiing in December.

“We’re doing them sporadically, we’re spacing them out,” McGuire said. “Everyone has to wear a mask, and we take their temperature before they start any event. We have a certain amount of questions we ask each athlete and their parents, whichever the case may be.”

Tickets for bingo are on sale for $20 and will be sold to no more than 200 people for the first date. Those interested in purchasing tickets may call McGuire at 443-507-6010.

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