My name is Donna Higgs-McGuire and I am the fundraising director for Carroll County Special Olympics. I am also a very proud mother of a Special Olympian and an equally proud coach.
Working through COVID-19 has been, to say the least, a huge challenge. Special Olympics State of Maryland shut down all sporting activities from Mid-March until July 1. A large portion of our athletes of course did not understand what was happening. We did our best to keep them occupied with zoom events. When we did finally open back up it was done with the utmost safety of our athletes, volunteers and coaches. We started with golf, kayak and track and field. We made sure everyone understood all the precautions we had put into effect along with the state guidelines.
The next big hurdle we needed to overcome was fundraising. Carroll County Special Olympics receives no state or federal funds, so our funds are strictly by donations and fundraisers. We had already since March lost four of our major fundraisers. We have two bingo fundraisers a year and they are our biggest source of funding. So we had to figure a way to have a bingo and still stay safe and to make sure our players and volunteers knew that we had taken every safety precaution.
Our area director, Laurie Brewer, and myself decided we would try to have it outside. This was going to be very challenging but we had to see if we could make it work. We contacted the Carroll County Health Department with our plan and after working with them, they approved our event. But we decided to do it on back-to-back Saturdays so we could socially distance everyone. We normally have around 400 to sometimes 500 players at our indoor bingo fundraisers. So we limited the number of players to 200 per Saturday.
We proceeded to contact outside venues and we were lucky enough to be able to have it at Westminster High School’s track parking lot. We had gotten big tents to put up at the event with the help of our amazing sponsors. So we planned the bingos for Sept. 19 and 26 at 1 p.m. We got there of course very early the first Saturday to set up and as we were putting the tents together, it decided to become extremely windy and unfortunately we had four tents destroyed, two of which were blown up onto the roof of the concession building. So we decided out of abundance of caution to take them all down.
Well, I am thrilled to report that everyone loved sitting out in the fresh air to play bingo. We have the most wonderful and generous community. They were troopers both Saturdays. We actually have many players telling us how much they enjoyed having it outside and hoped we could do something similar every year. We had two very successful bingos. We didn’t totally make up for all we lost but we came close, and that is because of the Carroll countians who always show us the most amazing support at all our events.
We have some 200 athletes here in Carroll County that we provide all the uniforms, equipment, venues etc. for. No parent pays anything to have their child/adult in Special Olympics. We also have other events for them throughout the year just to get together and enjoy spending time with the friends they have made. We also sponsor the Spring Games every year for the students from the Carroll County Public Schools adaptive physical education program at Westminster High in April.
We are truly blessed to be part of the Carroll County Community and we want to thank everyone who comes out and supports our events and our fantastic athletes. We couldn’t do what we do for them without your help.
Donna Higgs-McGuire is the fundraising director for Carroll County Special Olympics.
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