Lucky poker-1
By Matt Helm
BELVIDERE ─ Lucky Poker donated a check of $1,000 to the Belvidere Park District Northlands Association for Special Recreation (NASR) on Tuesday, Jan. 19.
“When we opened up about a year ago last November we put up a donation jar,” Lucky Poker owner Kevin Olson said. “People finish playing and if they don’t win there might be ten cents or a dollar left over. Instead of carrying around that loose change in their pocket, they could donate it to the jar and eventually it got pretty full. The Special Olympics is a good cause, so we decided to bump up the donation jar to a full $1,000.”
NASR will use the money to purchase new equipment and to keep registration fees low.
“These donations help us sustain our programs and keep our programs at the lowest possible cost for the athletes,” Special Recreation Supervisor at the Belvidere Park District Amber Eck said. “We want as much participation as we can. We want to provide the best possible equipment and the best possible experience.”
The local Special Olympics team has doubled in the last two years in the number of athletes that compete as well as in the number of sports available.
“More athletes keep coming in, which means it takes more to support and sustain the program,” Eck said. “We have sports going all year long. New this year is softball, volleyball and snow shoeing. Bocce ball is coming in February and tennis in May. We now offer ten sports, which is pretty amazing.”
Part of the $1,000 donation will go towards purchasing turbo javelins for a track and field event.
“Turbo javelins are kind of like a big, giant dart that you can throw,” Eck said. “With the addition of the javelins our team in Belvidere will be the first to participate in an activity that is new to the Special Olympics in Illinois as a whole.”
Athletes Katie Greer, Kyle Majewski, Chris McCaffrey, Becky Shuster and Tina Masbruch were at the check presentation and got to hear about their new equipment.
“A big, giant dart? I am so going to try that this year,” McCaffrey said.
Greer just started basketball and recently scored her first basket.
“I would really like to purchase a higher quality DSLR camera so we can take pictures of those moments with our athletes and have them not just be a blur,” Eck said. “We also need new tennis rackets, soft ball bats, softball mitts and specialized volleyballs with lighter weight leather. Sometimes the athletes can’t always afford their own equipment. This check will help us with that.”
The Special Olympics is one of many programs offered by the Belvidere Park District’s Special Recreation Department.
“We provide programming for people five and older in the Boone County area, including after school programs, adult day programs, day camp and specialty programs in the evening,” Eck said. “This check is going to a small part of what we do. We have lots of fundraisers and it’s how we support our budget.”
NASR encourages those interested to look forward to the Third Annual “Hug an Athlete” 5K coming up Sunday, Feb. 28.

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