Staff Photo: Lee Depkin. Matasha McCrary participates in the softball throw at the Rockdale Special Olympics Track and Field practice on the Parker Road Annex grounds Thursday. Waiting behind her is Monique Gresham.
Even though Aundrea Lamondo won't be competing in State Special Olympics bocce ball until August, she's got it marked on her calendar and can't wait for the date to arrive.
"She will talk about it weekly, it's so important to her," said Robin Lamondo, Aundrea's mother.
Aundrea is just one of about 220 special-needs community members who benefit from the sports offered by Rockdale Special Olympics. Both children and adult athletes partake in such sports as basketball, softball, track and field, bowling, tennis, swimming, golf, weightlifting and floor hockey.
There is no cost for athlete participation but local communities must raise money to help pay for uniforms, equipment and transportation. To that end, the Rockdale Special Olympics committee is holding its second annual Wine Tasting Dinner at 6 p.m. April 2 at the Meadowbrook Country Club, 5143 Lake Forest Drive in Conyers.
Sinful Dish catering will supply the food, served buffet-style, which will be paired with wines, donated by Sigman Bottle Shop. Event organizer Erika Sellers said the bruschetta bar, which offers breads, tomatoes, sausages and cheeses, as well as the dessert bar, offering delectables like a chocolate fountain, homemade pound cake and fruit, will be available again this year, along with an array of main dishes.
"We're excited and hope that people will come out and enjoy the evening, and try some new and interesting wines they've never tasted before," Sellers said.
Organizers moved the Wine Tasting Dinner to the country club this year with the aim of accommodating more people. Last year's event at the Whistle Post Tavern in Conyers drew 65, but the Meadowbrook Country Club can hold 225. The new venue could also mean that Rockdale Special Olympics could raise more than the roughly $2,700 generated at the 2010 event.
"We did learn a few things to make it bigger and better," Sellers said.
For the Lamondo family, Special Olympics is a key part of their lives. Aundrea Lamondo, 30, is moderately intellectually disabled and has speech and vision impairments. She's been participating in Special Olympics since age 9.
"To this day, our family will say without hesitation that the Special Olympics activities are the highlight of her year," her mother said.
Joining in bocce ball games, and also bowling, provides Aundrea with physical activity, boosts her self-esteem and allows her a level of independence, especially when she travels without her parents to state games.
"We are eternally grateful as a family for this program in Rockdale County, not only the program, but the quality of the program," Lamondo said.
Lamondo said that very few activities for adults with special needs exist.
"I don't know if a lot of people realize how important it is," she said.
Lamondo is thankful for Special Olympics volunteers and for those who provide financial assistance to the program.
"The program would not exist without the generosity of the supporters, in terms of time and money, because Special Olympics requires both," she said.