.

Lots to look forward to

After the Big Hearts Pageant I thought things would quiet down. But boy, was I wrong. (And I mean that in the best possible way.)

I thought things would quiet down.

But boy, was I wrong. (And I mean that in the best possible way.)

After our largest, , I figured I would get to experience a relaxed, downhill slide toward the summer at Extra Special People. There is, of course, summer camp to plan – counselors to hire, children to sign up, activities to organize – but from my perspective of planning special events and coordinating media, it seemed the hard work was over.

But then again, maybe I wasn't anticipating just how successful Big Hearts would be.

Our fifth annual pageant, for children and young adults with disabilities to show off what they can do, raised more than $35,000 in one night. At a banquet that same night, ESP received a $100,000 challenge grant from the Linda and Jerry Strickland Foundation, which was quickly matched by another $105,000 in pledges.

What quickly dawned on me – and rest of the exhausted, yet grateful staff at ESP – was the opportunity presented by that fundraising success. A gift of $100,000 gets the community buzzing. Sky-rocketing from $20,000 raised at one year's event $35,000 the following year even more so.

It's a beautiful thing called momentum.

So, after many of us spent a weekend comatose from the exhaustion and thrill of the Big Hearts pageant, we realized it was time for the real work to begin. Now, we're letting that momentum carry us into the events of the next couple of months and continuing to dream big. All of it helps kids go to camp at ESP, but also contributes to building ESP's dream of a new facility and creating .

So, on to the fun stuff.

First, on March 24, comes the Sixth Annual Nicholas Pope Memorial Golf Tournament, benefitting ESP and the Georgia Sheriffs' Youth Homes. This is the fifth year of the tournament in which ESP has received the bulk of the proceeds.

It's a golf-lover's paradise, with room for 120 golfers to take part in the 2 p.m. shotgun start at Lane Creek Golf Club, and prizes for the three top-finishing foursomes as well as the golfers with the longest drive, the shot closest to the pin, and a $5,000 cash prize for a hole in one. Registration is available at the ESP website for just $75 a golfer.

Last year, something extra-special was added, and will make its return this year. When the day of golf wraps up and the sun starts to sag, everyone will gather at the at 6 p.m., for a night of barbecue and bluegrass. Tickets are just $10 and kids under 10 eat free.

There's a silent auction, and it's a great way to unwind from a day of golfing or spring cleaning. But hey, do you really need an excuse to eat some down-home barbecue and listen to great tunes?

Then, in April comes something everyone at ESP is getting really excited about.

ESP's Second Annual Jump, Fly, Be Different event is not your typical fundraiser.

We're pushing people out of planes.

OK, so most of them jump voluntarily, but last year's event featured some reluctant (but no less heroic) participants.

In our first year, Jump, Fly, Be Different was wildly successful. We convinced 24 people to put their lives in our hands and skydive, all in the name of raising about $12,000 that helped send kids with disabilities to summer camp.

We want to increase that number this year, but we also want to make the event something that everyone can enjoy. We are planning some amazing stuff – live music, good food, face painting, recreation for the kids and appearances by real-life superheroes.

Think of it as a carnival with the added entertainment of watching people parachute from the sky.

Admission to the April 28 event, at the Monroe County Airport, is free. All we are asking folks to bring is a lawn chair and a sense of adventure!

Since this is the second time ever that ESP has hosted this event, we're playing with a lot of fun ideas. Some of them can be satisfied by folks right here in the community: if you know someone with face-painting talent, a vintage airplane, a clown costume, a band, caricature skills, a dunk tank, a bounce house (or anything else kids of all ages would enjoy) send them our way! Emails can go to jumpfly@extraspecialpeople.com.

Oh, and did we mention there's an opportunity to sky-dive? We are recruiting sky-divers who will be an ESP kid's superhero. No experience is necessary. Participants are required to raise a minimum of $500, but there are prizes for people who go above and beyond.

Those who jump get to create super-hero alter-egos, and we make fundraising easy by featuring each participant on the ESP website and collecting the donations – all in one place.

Please consider joining us for one of these upcoming events, or help contribute to the magic by volunteering time, services or goods.

Regardless, we'd love for you to come find out why everybody is talking about ESP.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

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