Special Olympics needs your help

Published 12:38 am Wednesday, September 28, 2011

By Alex Allain

The Natchez Democrat

NATCHEZ — The Special Olympics of Mississippi is facing a major hurdle in the advancement of its mission, and area residents can aid in overcoming it.

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After receiving the state legislature’s approval to offer a specialty license tag, the organization may not achieve the number of sales to begin production.

“We are falling short of the initial orders, and we need people’s help,” said Helen Parish, CEO and president of the Special Olympics of Mississippi.

Parish said the purchased tags would have long-standing benefits for the charity.

“It would not help out just one year, but in each year as it is renewed,” Parish said.

“The revenues generated from the tags would be equally shared between the state and local programs.”

The state portion would support the state events, in which local athletes can participate at no charge.

Mississippi is the only state in the U.S. that does not charge its athletes to compete in Special Olympics state events, and Parish said she hopes this practice is preserved.

More than 16,000 Special Olympics athletes are registered in Mississippi.

“(These athletes with intellectual disabilities) are capable of experiencing these events as meaningful. They show the same excitement as anyone else. We have a lot of opportunities, and we need the help to provide them,” Parish said.

In upcoming events, the Special Olympics of Mississippi is hosting fall games (featuring softball, croquet, soccer and horseshoes) in Hattiesburg and an equestrian competition in Gulfport in November.

Natchez resident Carolyn Couch has been volunteering with the Special Olympics of Mississippi for eight years, and she said her experience has been outstanding.

“Those competing form friendships with other kids, and the games foster socialization and teambuilding,” Couch said.

Her daughter, Jordan, competed in the National Special Olympics in Lincoln, Neb., this past May.

Carolyn Couch is collecting the tag contributions in the Natchez area, and she said that she hopes more people will support the cause.

“If we do not pre-sell 300 tags (across the state), this dream is not going to become a reality,” Couch said.

The tags will cost an additional $31 for buyers, and $24 of the proceeds will be donated to the Special Olympics of Mississippi.

Parish said the organization will accept sales until Oct. 14 to achieve the necessary number.

At this point, it is a race against time for the charity.

“We need to submit the information to the Department of Revenue by Oct. 15, and we will stay up all night, if need be, to get this done,” Parish said.

Locals interested in purchasing the specialty tag should contact Carolyn Couch at 601-442-2125.