This year’s Area 15 Special Olympics Burger Luncheon is one for the record books. The July 22 event at First Baptist Church of Maryville drew more than 800 diners and carry-out customers, making it the largest burger luncheon ever for the group.
Cookie Crowson, assistant director for Maryville Alcoa Blount County Parks and Recreation, led the effort.
“It was our biggest one to date and raised in excess of $3,000,” Crowson said of the third annual event. “Our community is so supportive.”
Each year Crowson said the volunteers hosting the burger lunch work, working hard grilling the burgers and preparing the food for people to either eat at the church or take with them.
“Our goal is usually about $3,000. If we raise that much, we’re pleased,” she said. “We rely on the generosity of the individuals and corporations who support us.”
Crowson said Special Olympics is a “high ticket” item that can sometimes be an expensive endeavor. “We’re very fortunate to have the proceeds from this to offset expenses. This (fundraiser) is in addition to other fundraising we do,” she said.
These funds support all the activities of Area 15 Special Olympics from bowling, roller skating, basketball to track and field. “It takes a lot of money to support these programs. Last year we had 235 athletes in bowling and 301 in track and field,” she said.
Crowson praised the 35 to 40 volunteers who made the burger luncheon possible. While Parks and Recreation has staff, for events such as the burger luncheon volunteers are necessary. “When we have these events we have to have that volunteer support,” she said.
Folks enjoying their lunch said Special Olympics gives the athletes intangible benefits. “It gives them self-worth and confidence,” Gary Holloway said.
Chris Hamby said the athletes get so much enjoyment from the competition. “I just think it’s a great thing for them,” he said.
Atmos Energy employees alongside Alcoa and Maryville fire department personnel manned grills, preparing the hamburgers for the patrons. Marty Snow with Atmos said Special Olympics is a organization the company supports. “We’re here with Maryville and Alcoa fire departments, and we’re proud to be a part of it,” he said.