Last Saturday Extra Special People hosted its 11th annual “Big Hearts Be Bold” fundraiser at the Classic Center. There were 60 participants who took to the stage at the special needs talent show.
Founded in 1986, ESP is an organization that provides opportunities for individuals with disabilities by creating a place that they and their families can grow and create memories together.
“Big Hearts,” a show which first took in a high school auditorium with less than 200 in attendance, has slowly grown into one of the biggest events in Athens, selling out the 2,000-seat Classic Center theatre.
“ESP is my lifesaver. If we didn’t have it, I don’t know what we would do,” Cheryl Jordan, mother of ESP member and “Big Hearts” participant Thomas Jordan told The Red & Black. “He was one of the first participants 11 years ago. He just loves it.”
The participants, whose ages range from 6 to 40 years old, seem to feel similarly towards the event.
“My favorite part was all of it,” said Stephanie Connelly, a 35-year-old first-time participant who performed a Zumba dance routine.
The 3-hour show included flag twirling and breakdancing among the talents showcased.
Over 600 volunteers and sponsors helped run the show.
“Working with ESP is so incredibly rewarding. Building these relationships with the participants here tonight is invaluable,” volunteer Courtney Lee said.
UGA football players Jake Fromm, Lorenzo Carter, Jordan McKinney, David Bellamy and Tyler Simmons were some of the escorts for the pageant, along with former players Aaron and Josh Murray, who served as Masters of Ceremony.
The funds raised from the event will go toward programs that offer after school care, weekend outings and eight weeks of summer camp for more than 300 individuals involved in ESP.
The money raised will also benefit family support and counseling and community involvement to allow the public to engage with and support the ESP mission through special events and volunteer opportunities throughout the year.
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