Special Olympics fundraising tops $400K

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There were smiles all around at the recent launch of the province-wide Sponsor a Champion fundraising initiative at the Chatham-Kent Civic Centre. Local Special Olympics athletes attended the kick-off, along with representatives from the major sponsors. The Special Olympics Ontario School Championship Games will take place across Chatham-Kent June 10-12.

Sponsor a Champion underway

By Pam Wright
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

When it comes to fundraising for this year’s Special Olympics Ontario School Championship Games, Chatham-Kent can already claim gold.

The fact that local fundraising efforts doubled its $200,000 target in less than a year has organizers hopeful the same kind of results can be achieved with the Sponsor a Champion campaign.

Launched at the Chatham-Kent Civic Centre March 27, the drive allows an individual or business to sponsor an athlete for $250 to help pay for their attendance at the School Championship Games taking place across C-K June 10-12.

According to Jason Herder, co-manager of the games, the streamlined tool makes sponsorship simple.

“Anyone from the province can go online and sponsor one of the athletes coming to the games under schoolchamps.ca,” the Chatham-Kent police sergeant said. “This makes it easy for people to send a friend or loved one to the games. Sponsor a Champion opens it up province-wide and people can support someone or support the games in general.”

If the past 11 months are any indication, success for Sponsor a Champion is on the way. Herder said the Chatham-Kent games were given a 13-month window to bring in $200,000, with the provincial body agreeing to kick in another $200,000. It costs a minimum of $400,000 to host the games.

But thanks to a community-wide effort – that included more than $70,000 raised by the Polar Plunge – Chatham-Kent has managed to fundraise the entire cost of the games.

“This is a big, exciting deal for us,” Herder said. “We had a short window and we managed to do it.”

There are currently 7,000 high school Special Olympics athletes in Ontario competing to qualify for the June games with around 1,000 heading to C-K. The athletes, aged 14 to 21, and their coaches will take part in five sports, including soccer, track and field, basketball, floor hockey and bocce ball.

Locally, Herder said it’s hoped athletes from every Chatham-Kent secondary school will be able to take part.

Herder pointed out that the benefits of sponsoring a young athlete go beyond the physical, adding sponsorship boosts an athlete’s mental health as well.

“It’s nothing but positive for everyone,” he said.

A number of athletes from John McGregor Secondary School and Chatham Christian School were on hand at the Sponsor a Champion launch, along with representatives from some of the lead sponsors, including Winmar Property Restoration Specialists, Enbridge Gas, Ridge Landfill Community Trust, Waste Connections of Canada, Maple Mutual Insurance, Teksavvy Solutions, The Chatham-Kent Police Association, the CKPS Police Services Board and the Municipality of Chatham-Kent.

The Knights of Columbus Council 1412 were also in attendance at the launch presenting a $14,500 cheque for the games.

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