ST. CLAIRSVILLE - Belmont County Special Olympics recently received some good news.
It is now formally under the Special Olympics of Ohio umbrella, which allows it to become a totally tax deductible organization whereas in the past, the Special Olympics in Belmont County had fallen under MRDD control.
"It's now totally separate from Belmont County," said Liza Kazmirski of Tomorrow's Corner. "We follow the rules of Special Olympics Ohio and no one else's fingers are in it."
BELMONT?COUNTY Special Olympics was given full aproval by the state of Ohio and is now its own entity. From left are advisory board members Eric Petho, Steve Williams, Albert Davies, Greg Hocking and local coordinator Tom King. Member Lisa Kazmirski was absent.
The Belmont County Special Olympics received its full approval in the middle of December and began the first of January with its new standing after working toward it for the better part of two years.
"We were able to start fresh in January," Kazmirski said. "We thought this process was going to be harder than it was, but the state of Ohio was very helpful in getting this set up."
When the Special Olympics separated, which is quite common throughout the Buckeye State, it formed its own advisory board. It answers strictly to Special Olympics Ohio and is comprised of Eric Petho, Steve Williams and Albert Davies. Tom King has been contracted as the local coordinator.
"The board members really don't have any background in special needs population," Kazmirski said. "There's a lot more of a community ownership in this, and I think it will continue to get more people involved."
All of the money that's been earned or secured for Special Olympics was transferred into a new account.
"Anything the county or Tomorrow's Corner had got transferred," Kazmirski said.
By being separate from the rest of the county, more special needs people will be able to participate in the Special Olympics sports according to Kazmirski.
"With this, you don't have to receive services from MRDD like you did in the past," Kazmirski pointed out. "You can be referred to this for any kind of disability. We can get people from the schools or families now even if they don't want to receive the services."
Special Olympics Ohio-Belmont County offers four sports for its athletes to compete at local, regional and state levels according to a press release.
Those sports are basketball, track and field, bocce and bowling.
All told, the organization has more than 30 athletes per sport competing and numbers are on the rise.
"If we can promote the awareness, the inclusion for these folks is automatic," Kazmirski said. The Special Olympics Belmont County is also able to help the community and non-profit organizations. For the second straight year, the Belmont Eagles basketball team will take on a team of St. Clairsville teachers in a game to benefit the St. C. Stadium Project on Thursday, March 10.
"We're definitely open to doing this for other schools and groups," Kazmirski said. "We're trying to challenge other places to invite us to play. We feel like it would be well worth it."
All of the money generated by Special Olympics stays local, which according to Kazmirski has greatly added to the number of donors the organization has gotten.
"The big key in all of this is the fact that all of the proceeds stay local," Kazmirski said. "It's very refreshing to see how the community members are stepping up. When we ask someone, they're willing to donate and help, but for the longest time, we weren't asking."
There are three different levels of donating. Interested individuals can adopt-an-athlete or there are annual sponsorship levels and the third option is a patron.
For more information please contact Tom King at 695-1110.
Staskey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org