October 22, 2014

Elyria
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Cornhole tournament to raise money for Lorain Special Olympics

Kayla Stearns of Elyria, a Lorain City Special Olympics athlete, cheers as she wins a gold medal at the area aquatics meet in Strongsville. She won a gold medal at the state meet in December.

LORAIN — Hot summer days, backyard barbecues, cornhole tournaments … miss it?

Well, it may be the dead of winter in Ohio, but there is a way to capture a little of that summer fun and benefit the Lorain City Special Olympics.

The nonprofit is partnering with Rival Sports and DGI Softball to hold a singles cornhole tournament Feb. 8 with the proceeds to benefit the local Special Olympics organization.

And it couldn’t come at a better time.

The local chapter is short about $8,000 after an annual fundraiser put on by two area police departments had to divert funds to help an ailing officer.

“A lot of people don’t know about us,” said Krystal Tavenner, community chairwoman for the Lorain City Special Olympics. “We operate strictly through donations, and we have been lucky enough to get a few grants. The generosity of the community is essentially what keeps our program operational.”

Although based in Lorain, this chapter of the Special Olympics serves athletes throughout Lorain County offering a variety of sports, such as aquatics in the fall, basketball in the winter, bowling and tennis.

The approximately 30 athletes who participate range from 8 years old to adults and are grouped by ability and athletic interest.

And Lorain City Special Olympics is always looking to grow its program.

“Special Olympics gives individuals with disabilities a chance to come together for a sense of normalcy,” Tavenner said. “It allows them to fit in and come together as a community.”

The cornhole fundraiser is essential to keep the program going.

Frank Griffith, of Rival Sports, has donated the use of his facility for the tournament.

“When we learned that they needed a facility to host the tournament, we immediately said ‘yes,’ ” Griffith said. “Since taking over in 2008, one of our missions has been to reach out to the community.”

Rival Sports, which is the former Premier Soccer Academy, is a training facility for numerous athletes and sports, including football, cheerleading, baseball and fast-pitch softball.

The facility is opening a new sports performance gym the first week of February.

About 3,500 athletes train at the facility weekly. Thirty percent of those athletes are from Lorain County. The other 70 percent are from around the state, and even outside Ohio.

Griffith has been working with local nonprofits in an effort to attract more athletes from the community, and the cornhole tournament is one way to accomplish that.

The tournament is open to men and women and is a double-elimination format with cash payouts for first (25 percent of entry), second (15 percent of entry) and third place (10 percent of entry). Fourth and fifth place receive the $25 entry fee back.

A consolation tournament will be available after the third round with a $15 entry fee, payable at the time of entry. Cash payouts will be the same percentage of entry as the main tournament.

In additional to the tournament, concessions, beer and other beverages will be sold, and a 50/50 raffle will take place.
Sports imitates life, Griffith said.

“It’s not the fact of winning or losing,” he said. “A lot of life lessons can be learned through sports. Not everything in life is going to go your way. You’re not always going to come out on top. Sports teaches hard work, perseverance, how to be part of a team, how to be community-minded and how to lose.”

The athletes who participate in Special Olympics learn those same lessons.

“The athletes with disabilities play the exact same sport and try to overcome the exact same obstacles as any athlete playing the sport,” Griffith said. “The difference is they have more obstacles to overcome in their day-to-day life.”

For more information about the tournament, contact Tavenner at krystaltavenner@aol.com; Griffith at dagriff88@yahoo.com; or Lewis Dunlap at (440) 221-2495 or lew10@windstream.net.

If you go

  • WHAT: Singles cornhole tournament to benefit Lorain City Special Olympics
  • WHEN: 8:30 p.m. to 1 a.m. Feb. 8
  • WHERE: Rival Sports, 2101 Brad Friedels Future Stars, Lorain
  • COST: $25 entry fee per person in advance; $35 at the door.
  • INFO: Checks may be made out to Lorain City Special Olympics and mailed to 2712 W. 37th St., Lorain, OH 44053; or Lewis Dunlap, and mailed to 873 Salem Ave., Elyria, OH 44035. A PayPal gift account also has been set up at lew10@windstream.net.

Contact Christina Jolliffe at 329-7155 or ctnews@chroniclet.com.