Special Olympics programs in jeopardy because of slow economy

Stephanie Zane
Stephanie Zane
Milton Zane
Milton Zane
Jonna Zane
Jonna Zane

By Leland Kim - bio | email

WAIKIKI (KHNL) -   Hawaii's largest non-profit organization for people with intellectual disabilities needs your help.  Because of the economic slowdown, Special Olympics Hawaii has fallen short of its fundraising efforts.  Unless something changes, this puts upcoming events in jeopardy.

This is the sad reality of what's happening to non profits in a slow economy.  The Special Olympics "Holiday Classic" is coming up in December.  But unless donations increase considerably, it could be scaled back or canceled all together.

Dedication and perseverance are two qualities these athletes possess.  The Special Olympics gives people with intellectual disabilities a venue to work hard, have fun, and succeed.

"I feel so good and hearing people seeing who they are, and mention their names and say, 'Congratulations, you earned it,'" said Stephanie Zane, a Special Olympics athlete from Hawaii Kai.

She has been involved with the Special Olympics for more than 30 years, breaking barriers and defying stereotypes.

"What I teach them is to learn about what I do and what kind of athletics I do, and I love swimming," said Zane.

Her parents say they don't know where she'd be without the Special Olympics.

"It has provided activities for Stephanie which she would not have if we did not have this organization," said Milton Zane, Stephanie's father.

"We've watched our daughter learn to swim, learn to play basketball, which we thought she'd never be able to do," added Jonna Zane, Stephanie's mother.

Competition also teaches athletes valuable life lessons.

"Sports gives you physical fitness and self esteem and for our athletes, it teaches them to follow directions, it teaches them to listen to their teachers," said Nancy Bottelo, CEO of Special Olympics Hawaii.

Despite fundraisers like "Cop on Top," an event where Hawaii police officers volunteer their time to raise money, Special Olympics programs are in jeopardy because of the slow economy.

This year, revenues have plummeted more than $100,000 from a year ago.  That's why Special Olympics families are concerned.

"I think it's absolutely essential that as a community, and as other parents, we support this organization because it changes lives," said Jonna Zane.

Lives like Stephanie Zane's.

"Let me win. If I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt," said  Stephanie Zane, reciting the Special Olympics athlete's creed.  "And that's our goal."

A goal shared by the 1,100 Special Olympics athletes, coaches, their families, and friends.

The Special Olympics has one more fundraiser left for the year.  It's called "Over the Edge," and those who can raise at least $1,000 will be able to rappel from the top of the Sheraton Waikiki hotel.  It is 31 stories tall, and 315 feet high.

For more information, click here or go to the link on this page.