For the past two months, Special Olympics athlete Angie Germond fervently gathered donations to support the program she’s come to love.
“I get to travel, I get to do sports, make new friends and go new places,” the 37-year-old Roseburg resident said.
Germond, who raised $3,115 for Douglas County Special Olympics, joined about 100 athletes with developmental disabilities for a half-mile walk-a-thon Saturday around Stewart Park and along Harvard Avenue and Stewart Parkway. The athletes, their families and volunteer coaches gathered in the park’s pavilion to recognize the top fundraisers.
The annual walk-a-thon is Douglas County Special Olympics’ largest fundraiser and covers most of the cost of running the program each year, said Frank Rambaum, volunteer coordinator for Douglas County Special Olympics. Each year, Special Olympics athletes solicit donations to pay for uniforms, equipment and travel expenses to compete year-round in sports, including swimming, bocce ball, skiing, golf, softball, soccer and basketball. Last year, athletes raised about $32,000, Rambaum said.
“There isn’t any cost for the athletes to participate. It’s all taken care of by what they collect from this,” he said.
Douglas County residents have been incredibly supportive of the program, Rambaum said.
“Douglas County has been so awesome for what they donate to this,” he said. “It’s so awesome what these athletes do and what a connection they have with the community and how much the community loves them and supports them.”
Rambaum, who has a daughter with Down syndrome, praised Special Olympics for what it has done for his daughter and other participants. The program helps those with developmental disabilities get out and make friends and feel included, he said.
“All different skill levels can participate,” he said. “They’re not just on the sidelines all the time.”
Germond said along with support from family members, she gathered donations at Grocery Outlet, the Central Douglas County YMCA and Redeemer’s Fellowship in Roseburg. She said she was eager to raise as much money as possible for Special Olympics.
“We need the money. It costs a lot to bus us, feed us,” she said.
Her father, Richard Germond, said Special Olympics has been a great opportunity for his daughter.
“It gives her something to look forward to,” he said. “She gets out into the community. She’s not homebound ... and that can be nothing but good.”
Keith Develbiss, 33, of Roseburg plays Special Olympics basketball and swims. Special Olympics is great, he said.
“It’s so much fun,” he said.
His mother, Ann Akar, said Special Olympics is a big part of her son’s life.
“Special Olympics is a very positive character builder and a part of a healthy lifestyle,” she said.
George Johnson, 40, of Roseburg said he’s participated in Special Olympics for the past 34 years. The best part about the program is meeting people, he said.
“All of my friends are here,” he said. “If we didn’t have this, most of them would be in group homes doing nothing.”
Charles Batman, 46, of Roseburg said Special Olympics has benefitted him greatly.
“I socialize more, I have more friends, (I’m) more energetic,” he said.
Dave Erickson, the event coordinator for Douglas County Special Olympics, organized this year’s walk-a-thon. He started coaching Special Olympics basketball 31 years ago. Working with the athletes is incredibly rewarding, Erickson said.
“I keep coming back because I love these guys,” he said. “They’re so enthusiastic and they’re so appreciative. There’s never any bad attitudes.”
Robert Batchelor, 27, of Roseburg started coaching Special Olympics basketball two years ago.
“It’s been amazing. It’s definitely one of the best experiences of my life,” he said. “It’s more like an inspiration just seeing (the athletes) and working with them is a great experience. There’s so many people that need it.”