Oxford ride highlights local funding of Special Olympics
The Anniston Star - 3/31/2019
March 31-- Mar. 31--OXFORD -- A few dozen Harley-Davidson drivers roared out of Oxford Saturday morning, with a plan to raise money for the organization that sponsors the Special Olympics.
Most didn't seem too concerned about the federal funding brouhaha that has had the Special Olympics in the headlines for the past week.
"Most of our funding is local, which is why events like this are important," said Tammy Moreno, director of the ARC of Calhoun and Cleburne Counties, an organization that provides services to people with developmental disabilities -- services that include local Special Olympics events.
Moreno and several other ARC volunteers gathered at the Harley-Davidson dealership on Davis Loop Saturday morning to see off the second annual ARC charity ride held by Unfiltered, a local biker group.
Riders paid $20 each to participate, driving from Oxford through rural Cleburne County to Fruithurst and Ranburne, then back, according to Wain Fals, the leader of Unfiltered.
Last year's event pulled in about $2,500. Organizers can't quite agree on how many riders actually participated -- maybe 30, maybe 60. Shortly before this year's ride, a reporter counted 38 bikes in the parking lot, though organizers weren't yet sure if the ride grew this year.
Causes sometimes get a boost when they're in national headlines, and that's been the case for Special Olympics this past week. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos faced backlash early in the week after her department released a proposed budget that zeroed out the $17.6 million the federal government gives to the Special Olympics.
President Donald Trump later in the week seemed to override DeVos, saying Special Olympics funding would remain intact.
The back-and-forth over the funding barely registered with local ARC supporters.
"I heard a little about it, but I don't know much," said Fals, the motorcycle club's leader.
The ARC spends about $30,000 per year on local Special Olympics events, Moreno said. Pati Tiller, who coordinates Special Olympics for the ARC, said she'd followed the controversy, but didn't expect any funding lapses to show up immediately. Federal aid tends to go to state agencies to be parceled out for local events, she said.
Moreno said the most reliable source of money is local fundraisers like the Harley ride. Donors provide door prizes, participants dig into their pockets, volunteers work the event.
Among Saturday's volunteers was ARC client Jim Walker.
"We help, and we thank them for raising money for the ARC," he said.
Capitol & statewide reporter Tim Lockette: 256-294-4193. On Twitter @TLockette_Star.
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