Special Olympics Short on Donations
Jan Stephens has worked for 20 years with the Special Olympics as a volunteer, coach, coordinator and, most importantly, as a mother.
Her son, Larry, is autistic and mentally challenged. He's also a 20-year veteran of the Special Olympics.
"Special Olympics has done so much for him," said Stephens.
But this year, because of a $300,000 budget deficit, Larry and 3,000 other competitors must pay $35 per sport at state-level competitions.
The fee covers all participants in the state summer games at MU. Larry's eligible to compete in five sports, and he'll pay his own way there.
"Fortunately, Larry does work," said Stephens. "Larry can afford the $35, but we have many athletes that cannot."
However, sponsors can help athletes who can't pay the fee.
"State assessment fees are not new to Special Olympics," said Diane Brimer, central area director. "We had them and we discontinued them about 10 years ago because of the financial situation we were in at the time. But, when you're losing a business-to-business telemarketing, which brought in about $500,000, and we don't have that anymore, it's going to make a huge impact."
Brimer believes higher gasoline prices and Hurricane Katrina have shifted donations away from Missouri's Special Olympics. The $35 fee applies to only five out of 162 competitions throughout the year, and does not affect local competitions.