Smiles, hugs, laughter and love filled the room at the 2023 Boots & Bow Ties Country Fair themed auction, held Saturday, February 11 at the Courtyard by Marriott Allen. The auction is the primary fundraiser for the Allen Special Olympics Delegation. It was evident that these Special Angels are more than a team. They are a family.
“Most of our athletes love the social aspect of the program, but I love how it also teaches them life skills. It gives them something to do after high school. It shows them that it is okay not to win in competition as long as you get out and try,” explained Lisa Grantham, a veteran volunteer and Director with the Allen Special Olympics Delegation.
Grantham’s involvement in the program began over 30 years ago when she was approached to assist with the bowling team, the only event offered to the athletes at the time. As a special education teacher at Story Elementary, being a coach for the Special Olympics team was a perk of the job. Once Grantham came aboard, the program was taken to new heights.
In 1999, with the help of the local Kiwanis Club, Grantham and her team held the inaugural auction to support the organization. That year they raised over $50,000! The Allen Special Olympics Delegation has been hosting the event annually ever since. This year’s event consisted of both live and silent auctions, dinner, dancing, and, of course, lots of entertaining moments. Supporters of the organization joined the Special Angels in carnival games, raffle drawings and bidding on a plethora of items donated by local businesses. The bidding options consisted of date night packages, sports memorabilia, luxury purses, vacation stays, family fun options and much more. There was truly something for everyone and every budget.
Each year between $60,000-$75,000 is raised to benefit the athletes. The money enables the team to travel to competitions, covering their hotels, food, awards, banquets and even letter jackets for the athletes.
Athlete Rachel Seba has been involved with the Special Olympics for over twenty years. Her favorite sport is swimming. Not only has she found competitive success through the program —her relay team placed first in Orlando during the Summer of 2022 — she's also found love. Her teammate, Scott Wendt, became her boyfriend after they attended the USA games together. They both hope to meet Michael Phelps one day and "continue competing together forever."
The Allen Delegation currently supports aquatics, athletics, basketball, bocce, bowling, flag football, golf, powerlifting, soccer, tennis, volleyball and Unified Sports. Athletes may begin training as early as age six and compete in local and state competitions at age eight. The best part is that athletes never age out if they stay active in the program! The mission of the organization is to provide year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with special needs. They also aim to provide these athletes with continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, and experience joy and enable athletes to create new friendships, and share their gifts with their family and the community.
The mission may be focused on training and sportsmanship, but it is clear that building character and heart takes the prize. The Allen athletes have a stellar reputation at competition. This season they had sixteen athletes who competed in a state event, and the Unified Volleyball team took home first place! Regardless of their success, nearly every athlete we spoke with said their favorite aspect of the program was “Making friends who become family.”
Allen is truly blessed to have these Special Angels among us.
"Athletes love the social aspect of the program. I love how it also teaches them life skills." — Lisa Grantham