AMHERST, N.S. – Running any sports organization can be challenging financially.
The last year or two have been tough ones financially for the Amherst Area Special Olympics program – so tough it could not send a team to the provincial floor hockey championships like it has every spring for years.
The program, that kicked off a new season on Oct. 14 at E.B. Chandler Junior High School in amherst, got a huge boost in the form of a $2,055 donation from Bill Dowe on behalf of the second Bordertown Working Truck Show in September and $942.50 in 50/50 proceeds from the staff of Access Labels in East Amherst.
“It’s a great way to start the season,” Lisa Hines of Amherst Area Special Olympics said. “These donations are so important to us. Because we’re so isolated geographically our athletes don’t get the opportunity to compete in weekend competitions or regional tournaments.
“We have the two major competitions every year and that’s our goal to work toward them and every year everyone trains for these competitions and we hope we can fundraise the money so they can attend.”
Back in the spring, the inability to raise sufficient funds prevented the team from going to the provincial floor hockey competition. While the athletes understood, Hines said they were very disappointed because they look forward to the friendly competition and reacquainting themselves with Special Olympians from other areas of Nova Scotia.
Amherst sends athletes to the provincial summer competition every summer while the winter competition is held every two years. In between, there’s a provincial floor hockey tournament in Truro.
“We’ve typically gone to that every year,” he said. “We weren’t able to go this year. We had to decline because of funding. We felt it would be more important to take a team of 30 or more athletes to the summer games instead of a smaller group of 14 to the floor hockey tournament. It was a difficult decision to make.”
Hines said it costs between $10,000 and $12,000 to operate the Amherst Area Special Olympics program each year. Registration for competition is usually $125 per athlete. The program subsidizes the registration while transportation costs is usually the highest budget item.
For many years, there was a dance on New Year’s Eve that raised money for the program. Like many fundraisers, it ran its course and organizers moved on when it appears that it would no longer be successful.
Other fundraisers have been held and several community groups have stepped up to help.
“I think the word is out that we were short on money and we’ve had some help,” she said. “The mother of one of our athletes works at Access Labels and her boss, Paul Carr, wanted to do something to help while the Co-op had a draw to help us as well. There was even someone who had a lemonade stand for us in Pugwash this summer. Every little bit helps.”
The Amherst Area Special Olympics has been operating for approximately 40 years while the APSEA school for the deaf also had a program when it was in operation.