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Volunteers seek help from the community in supporting Special Olympics


May 14, 2014
BERLIN Volunteers in the city, including Pam Couture and Rita Belanger, are reaching out to the community for support of our local Special Olympian athletes.

Pam Couture is the local program coordinator for the Special Olympics and also a special education teacher at Hillside Elementary. She has been awarded the Gus Rooney volunteer of the year award this year. She has helped raise money in the past for our local athletes. Due to a lack of funds because of the declining economy, she and a few other volunteers are looking for new ways to raise money that is needed to maintain the local Special Olympics. Equipment, uniforms, food, housing, and transportation to events are just a few of the things money is needed for.

"People in this area have been very generous. Some local businesses that provided support have closed, so now we are being creative to find funds for our local program," said Couture.

Rita Belanger, along with help from her husband, Andre Belanger and their son Craig Eichler, are helping Pam to come up with fundraising ideas. Mrs. Belanger organized a yard sale that is taking place at the WREN office this Saturday and Sunday. Her son Craig is a dedicated Special Olympian who volunteers a lot of his time as well.

"We are a very small group of volunteers who are involved all year long. We are always looking for new volunteers and ideas," said Belanger.

Volunteers are always welcome in helping in sporting events, food preparation, organizing fundraisers, or just to attend events as a means of support, said Couture.

During the yard sale on Saturday, runners of the Law Enforcement Torch Run will be passing by the WREN building. The event also raises money for Special Olympics. It starts in Milan and ends in Gorham. The torch is then passed to another team and carried to the next eventually ending up at UNH to kick off the state games on May 30 and 31.

"The money raised for that event adds up indirectly to our local program," said Couture.

Although there is still a need for funds, Couture noted that the community has been supportive and generous.

"It is very seldom that businesses say no. We are lucky," she said.

Walmart provided a bake sale. Many families of athletes have contributed. Road Tolls have taken place. Fagin's Pub puts on the Pub Open which raises money. IGA has provided food and the Kiwanis club has provided food preparation. Pizza Hut has raised money. And a senior at Gorham high School organized a car wash in April as part of his senior project which generated some funds.

Aside from the Special Olympics, these athletes of all ages need employment. Couture and Belanger encourage local businesses to hire these men and woman for a few hours here and there.

"There aren't enough jobs for them. It helps them to hit the pavement," said Belanger. "It gives them something to look forward too and gives them a feeling of self-sufficiency."

"They meet new friends, they are a part of the community, and it gives them pride," said Couture.

Anyone who wants more information on how they can help can contact pam Couture at 603-752-0062. Anyone who would like to make a donation can send a money order or check made out to Androscoggin River Athletes SONH mailed to 212 Hillside Avenue, Berlin NH, 03570.

The yard sale is taking place at the WREN office at 921 Main Street on May 17 from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., and on May 18 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Anyone can donate an item for the yard sale and it can either be dropped off or picked up. There will be an assortment of many different items for sale. There will also be jar donations accepted at the event. For more information or to donate call 603-752-0062.

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