Extra Special People’s Big Hearts Pageant raised funds for its many programs and gave kids with disabilities the opportunity to shine onstage on Feb. 11.
More than 2000 people sold out the Classic Center to watch participants show off talents like flag-twirling, guitar-playing, and dancing.
Big Hearts is one of ESP’s three biggest events of the year. The event includes a formal banquet and a silent auction as well as the pageant. The auction is supplied by donations from local businesses, and includes items that range from jewelry, to skydiving vouchers, to signed sports memorabilia.
The event normally raises between two-hundred and three-hundred thousand dollars, which is used to fund ESP’s many programs. The organization has not yet released how much money the pageant raised this year.
Extra Special People board chairman Jay Strickland, hopes that the event gives kids the support they need to step out and show off their personalities.
“The idea was to allow these kids to shine. Everyday in school, they aren’t allowed the opportunity to shine,” Strickland says. “They’re usually in the back of the classroom or in different classrooms. Well, we wanted to put them in the spotlight.”
ESP currently serves 300 families who have children with disabilities. 76 kids took part in the competition portion of the pageant, and many more played parts in the Big Hearts stage play. Participants range from age four to 38 years old, but they’re all kids to the team at ESP.
“You’ll see a lot of parents tear up, because it’s the first time they’ve seen their child really be applauded by 2000 people,” Strickland says. “It’s their time to shine. That means a lot to those families, and it means a ton to those kids as well.”
Extra Special People currently has one location in Watkinsville. Ultimately, Strickland hopes to open up to two more locations in Gwinnett and Atlanta. His goal is to better serve the needs of families with children who have disabilities in Georgia.
“We’re always expanding our mission. We’re moving out into different directions into other counties more into Atlanta, so there are thousands of kids that aren’t served that we are trying to serve and grow and expand our mission.”
For more information about Extra Special People’s mission and how to volunteer, visit extraspecialpeople.com.
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By: Noelle Lashley