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Concert raises money for Special Olympics

Tahlequah Daily Press - 10/20/2018

Oct. 20--The rain stopped just as a special event kicked off in downtown Tahlequah on Friday.

Dr. John Fell -- known by music aficionados as "Doc Fell" -- hosted the Concert in the Park event, playing a free show to benefit the Tahlequah Special Olympics team under the pavilion across from Norris Park. Fell said there were a couple reasons he decided to work with the special-needs community to put on a show.

"I have a child that's in Special Olympics, so it's very meaningful to me," said Fell. "That's the biggest reason. The second reason is I like to give back to the community and I like to play music, and it's good to make money and be successful at it, but a big part is also just being able to provide music and services to people and volunteering whenever we can."

Each May, Tahlequah'sSpecial Olympics team travels to compete against athletes from across the state. Doing so requires funding and a little help from the community. Although there is a large special-needs community in Tahlequah, this was the first time a public event of this nature was held to support the group.

"We take about 20-25 athletes from Tahlequah [Public] Schools to state's Special Olympics Competition ever year," said Allison Collins, head coach. "When we go to state games, it's in Stillwater for three days. We stay in the dorms, we eat at the cafeteria at [Oklahoma State University], and it costs approximately $150 to $200 per athlete. We're by donation only, so we're just out here raising money for that."

Attendees sat down to eat burgers, hot dogs, and nachos while they listened to the performers. Amber Watson and Jordan Cox were also on stage Friday, playing with Fell into the evening.

"We started playing together this summer," Fell said. "This is our third event to play as a group, sort of. It's kind of a neat thing."

Some kids were running toward the two bounce houses, clamoring to enter the bumpy inflatable, while other children were having their faces painted and grabbing snow cones.

What started as a quiet function eventually turned into a lively occasion, demonstrating the community's support for the special needs community, which Kira Fell described as a tight-knit group.

"These people who put it on, they live it and they breathe it," she said. "When you're given a special-needs child and it's your first one, you don't know anything about them, so these people help you raise your children."

Fell said hosting a free show is a way to let residents of Tahlequah participate and show support. She said there are other small ways for locals to help, too.

"They do a huge sendoff at the high school, and that's a way the community could come out," she said. "They can watch the parade and send them off with a wave."

The city has a variety of organizations that need fundraisers to sustain their programs, but some may be unaware of the Special Olympics team's needs.

Fell said if groups want to be heard, they have to find ways like the concert to reach out to the community.

"When you're involved in a personal setting like we are, then you're very aware of what's going on," he said. "In a community sense, you just don't really have any idea. Hopefully this becomes an annual event. We can grow this and it can be one way we make the community aware of Special Olympics and the athletes we have."

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(c)2018 the Tahlequah Daily Press (Tahlequah, Okla.)

Visit the Tahlequah Daily Press (Tahlequah, Okla.) at www.tahlequahdailypress.com

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