Fayette County Special Olympics sailing team rebuilding after May tornado

Tue, 07/01/2008 - 12:19pm
By: The Citizen

Buddy Croft sailing Buddy Croft (on the left) and his unified partner, Steve Bonacci, at a competition in Charleston, S.C., June 5-8. Photo/Special.

Wind is usually a friend to the sailor. Recently, however, the Fayette County Special Olympics sailing team has learned that it can also be an enemy.

In May, a tornado destroyed their sailing center on Lake Tobesofkee in Macon. The center housed boats and equipment used by Fayette County athletes.

While this is a setback to the team, it is not the end, said Fayette County Special Olympics Coordinator Debbie Parrish. “Sailing is one of the most expensive sports in which our athletes compete. However, it is also one of the most exciting and rewarding for them. We absolutely plan to move forward and expand the program. We just need a little help.”

These athletes aren’t just sitting around waiting for someone to step in and help them, though. They are currently busy selling On Safari coffee as a fund-raiser. Each athlete needs to raise $275 for their entry fee into the Southeast Regional Regatta.

Ironically, this year’s Southeast Regional marks the first time the sailors will be able to return to competition’s original location in Biloxi, Miss. The Regatta was forced to relocate to Mobile, Ala., after Hurricane Katrina devastated the sailing facilities in Biloxi.
“Getting these athletes to the Regional Competition is our short-term goal,” said Parrish. “Our long-term goal is rebuilding the program and reaching the point where we are completely independent, with our own boats and facilities.”

To accomplish that, Parrish says they need help from the people of Fayette County. Cash donations, sponsorships, boats and equipment are all needed.

The Fayette County team began in 2001 with just two athletes, Buddy Croft and Erin Hoffman. This year, 10 athletes plan to compete in the Southeast Regional.

Before the tornado, the team practiced in Macon, along with two athletes from Henry County, one athlete from Whitfield, and the Macon team.
The sailors represent Fayette County in three competitions per year – the Charleston Regatta in Charleston, S.C., the Macon Open Competition, and the Southeast Regional.

This year, the Fayette team traveled to Charleston, despite having virtually no practice time because of the tornado. Michael Crofton brought back a gold medal, Dylan Starr earned a silver, and Eddie Griffin snagged a bronze. Shannon Waldrop and Joshua Sloman each received a fourth-place ribbon in their races, and Danielle Coholich and Buddy Croft came home with fifth-place ribbons.

Fayette County Special Olympics serves more than 200 athletes with intellectual disabilities. To volunteer or donate, please contact Debbie Parrish at 770-716-4320.

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