Campus raises funds, volunteers for Special Olympics

Release Date: 2/16/2012

Clarksville, Ark. --- One dime at a time, the University of the Ozarks campus community has helped make a difference for the Arkansas Special Olympics.

The campus raised $754.50 during its annual homecoming faculty-staff king and queen fund-raising event held in early February. Tennis Coach Shaun Wiseman and Jones Learning Center Coordinator Debbie Williams were voted 2012 king and queen following the two-week voting process. Votes cost 10 cents each, meaning 7,545 votes were cast.

The event was organized by the U of O Student-Athlete Advisory Committee. For the sixth consecutive year, Student-Athlete Advisory Committees from all 16 American Southwest Conference member institutions joined together in "Make a Change in 14 Days," a service project collecting loose coins to raise funds for local charitable organizations.

"We are very privileged to have the opportunity to raise money for the Special Olympics," said Wiseman, who is also the University's advisor for SAAC. "They are an amazing organization that we hope to work with more in the future."

The money will go to Area IV of the Arkansas Special Olympics, which is comprised of Johnson, Franklin, Sebastian and Crawford counties. Area IV Special Olympics Co-Director Jerry Bridges, a 1978 Ozarks graduate, said the money will be used to help Clarksville host the Area IV track and field meet on April 26.

"The University has always done a great job of supporting Special Olympics and this is another example of that," said Bridges. "Every little bit helps and the fact that Coach Wiseman, the student-athletes and the entire campus community stepped up and contributed is a wonderful testament to this University."

Bridges, a retired coach and high school administrator who lives in Greenwood, Ark., has been involved in the Arkansas Special Olympics since 1978 and has accompanied Arkansas athletes to Special Olympic World Games in Ireland, China and Greece in recent years. He said he got involved in Special Olympics while he was a senior at Ozarks at the suggestion of former physical education instructor Levada Qualls.

"Levada encouraged me to take some elementary P.E. classes at Arkansas Tech and that's how I got involved in Special Olympics," Bridges said. "It's been such a wonderful part of my life for the past 30 years. The athletes are so great to work with and be around. There's nothing like it."

Bridges said he expects about 450 participants in the Area IV track and field games that will be held at Clarksville High School on April 26. Several U of O coaches and student-athletes from SAAC will volunteer their time to help run the event.

"We wouldn't be able to have a huge event like this without volunteers like them," Bridges said. "To have a large group like that step in and volunteer their Saturday to make this event really special for these athletes is tremendous."

Faculty and Staff Homecoming Queen and King.

The University recently raised $754.50 for the Arkansas Special Olympics during its 2012 Homecoming Faculty-Staff King and Queen competition. Those attending the check presentation during a Nov. 9 basketball game were (from left) Queen Debbie Williams, King Shaun Wiseman, Arkansas Special Olympics Area IV Co-Director Jerry Bridges and U of O Student-Athlete Advisory Committee President Tony Santoro.