Saturday, Aug. 13, 2022 |
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Fundraiser this week could help lessen deficit
by Blake Jones – The Garden Island
About once a week from September to December, Kaua‘i’s Special Olympics student athletes set ’em up and knock ’em down at the Lihu‘e Bowling Center.
The program is one of the most popular Special Olympics activities, rivaling softball, basketball, soccer, bocce ball and track and field.
“(The athletes) love bowling,” said Jocelyn Barriga, Kaua‘i’s Special Olympics coordinator.
The program for mentally disabled student athletes takes place during the school day; between transportation to and from the bowling alley and game fees, it costs about $3,000 per season.
Funding has traditionally come from the Department of Education, as the program directly benefits its students.
However, that money may run dry this year because the Hawai‘i Board of Education cut nearly $130,000 for Special Olympics statewide.
The reduction represents a small portion of the $2 million that Special Olympics Hawai‘i fundraises each year. Still, the money helps pay for activities such as bowling on Kaua‘i as well as coaching clinics, ground transportation, uniforms and meals for more than 1,000 students, including Garden Isle athletes who travel to O‘ahu for the state competition.
Criticizing the decision on its Web site, Special Olympics Hawai‘i notes that the state spared other athletics programs from deep cuts following public outcry.
“How can it be remotely OK that sports programs for the ‘regular education’ students are not touched, and yet the only sports program for children in special education classes is completely cut?” stated the Special Olympics Hawai‘i home page yesterday.
The Education Department recommended the budget cut to comply with an order from Gov. Linda Lingle to slash $9.2 million in spending to cope with lower-than-expected state revenues.
The governor has also asked other departments, including the state library system, to trim its budgets.
The Education Department says Special Olympics was targeted for cuts because it is not required for students.
But Special Olympics Hawai‘i argues that half of its budget goes to DOE services, and the entire $128,925 funded by the state has always been spent on such.
Special Olympics is the only comprehensive sports program in Hawai‘i for children and adults with intellectual disabilities. It currently serves more than 2,000 children and adults statewide.
Kaua‘i’s 110 athletes range in age from 8 to 64, and about 60 or so are students.
Special Olympics says through sports its athletes learn to follow rules and develop self-esteem and self-confidence.
“It teaches (athletes) how to work on a team, how to follow rules, and to be able to make friends and feel like they’re important,” Barriga said of the benefits.
“Without Special Olympics, a lot of them would basically just sit on the sidelines,” she continued.
Tomorrow, Special Olympics will begin its annual Cop on Top statewide event in which police officers camp out on the roofs of Safeway stores to bring attention to fundraising efforts on the ground.
Barriga said the Kaua‘i effort at the Waipouli Safeway always receives strong community support, and last year raised the most money of all participating stores.
Last year donors contributed $28,000, topping the goal of $25,000.
This year the target is the same, but in light of increased expenses and reduced funding, Barriga hopes the community can do a little extra to keep programs like bowling afloat.
Lt. Hank Barriga, Detective Mike Gordon and Sgt. Ezra Kanoho of the Kaua‘i Police Department will set up camp tomorrow morning and won’t come down until Saturday at 2 p.m.
Special Olympics volunteers and athletes will be on hand from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. tomorrow and Friday, and until 2 p.m. Saturday to accept donations. All proceeds stay onisland and benefit Kaua‘i Special Olympics programs.
For more information, call Barriga at 652-8662.
• Associated Press contributed to this report.
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