Spring Fling supports Special Olympics

Published 10:30 am Wednesday, April 26, 2023

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MANCHAC— Live outdoor bands, raffles and a Chef’s Best cook-off will raise money for Special Olympics during the 2023 Spring Fling hosted by Gator’s Den/Beacon & Lakeside.

The fun begins at noon on Sunday, April 30 at 194 Old Highway 51 S. in Akers (Manchac).

Organizer Brande Coxen said the event has been going on for 20 years and benefits Special Olympics athletes in the River Parishes and Florida Parishes, two communities connected by the Manchac Greenway.  The event has grown tremendously throughout the years, with the most recent Spring Fling raising more than $30,000.

This year’s activities include a cook-off with at least 20 different samplers, live performances from local musicians, a raffle, and an auction that includes plants, boiling pots, ice chests and other outdoor accessories. The Spring Fling also features a dunking booth and children’s activities, offering fun for the whole family. The 2023 poster designed by Carrie Smith will be available for sale.

The Spring Fling is just one way Gator’s Den gives back. Other charitable events include an annual chili cook-off for breast cancer awareness. The business has also contributed to Mary Bird Perkins, an organization that brings cost-free cancer screenings to the community.

“We tend to get a lot of the same people come back to the Spring Fling because we all enjoy it so much and it is for a good cause,” Coxen said. “It’s nice to see everyone pull together to help the athletes be able to do what they do.”

River Parishes Special Olympics organizer Connie Love has attended the Spring Fling with her sons for the past 18 years. She said it’s a great opportunity for the athletes to socialize and explain to others how the Spring Fling benefits them.

“One hundred percent of the money goes into our athletes to support what they need and to develop more programs that allow them to become more independent and more successful,” Love said.

According to Love, donations are needed to pay fees for venues and to purchase equipment, food and water, and medals for athletes.

“We are not in a big urban area like Metairie or New Orleans, where a lot of public facilities are available, so we often have to pay for venues to be able to have these sporting events. We do as much as we can through the local rec departments, but so many public facilities are damaged from Ida,” Love said.

Proceeds from the Spring Fling make it possible for Special Olympics to offer more sports. Funds additionally support initiatives that promote a healthy lifestyle beyond athletics.

“With Healthy Athletes, we have a clinic that brings out doctors and nurses to do hearing, oral and visual assessments,” Love said.

According to Love, two sports are typically offered at a time to provide opportunities for individuals with varying levels of physical and intellectual capabilities.

River Parishes Special Olympics is currently offering bocce and track and field at 9 a.m. on Saturday mornings at Destrehan High School. Swimming and pickleball will begin in June, and softball and horseshoes will be offered in August.

The state Special Olympics website at laso.org has additional information on upcoming events for each region, how to become an athlete, and how to get involved as a volunteer.

For more information about River Parishes Special Olympics, contact Love at 985.618.6246 or conlizmorg@gmail.com.