ANDERSON — People may be coming for the food, but this weekend’s Gourmet Sampler is going to be all about the athletes.
The annual event is 5 to 8 p.m. Sunday in the former Sears location at Mounds Mall. It’s Anderson’s 30th Gourmet Sampler.
More importantly, the committee is adding new events to raise even more money for the Madison County Special Olympics, Gourmet Sampler Committee chair Gloria Long said.
This year’s event will feature a silent auction, a 50/50 raffle and a live auction. Jewelry, gift cards, a golf package, a weekend getaway and preseason Colts tickets are among the items to be auctioned off.
Last year’s Sampler raised $11,000 for the Special Olympics. But Long hopes the additional fundraising will bring this year’s total to at least $18,000.
“Our Olympians, that’s why we raise the money,” she said, pausing. “… I tear up when I talk about them. A lot of them don’t have the money to get out there and be a part of (the Special Olympics).”
Michelle Calhoun, Madison County Special Olympics coordinator, said the Gourmet Sampler is the organization’s biggest fundraising event of the year. Although she isn’t sure what percentage the fundraiser accounts for in its overall budget, it helps provide uniforms, transportation and competition fees.
The auctions and raffle adds a new spin to a classic event, while serving as an opportunity to raise awareness and money for the Special Olympics, Calhoun said.
“Special Olympics isn’t so much about being an athlete or your disability,” she said. “It’s more about what you can do despite your limitations. We all have something that limits us in some way, shape or form.”
Attendees will have the opportunity to meet some of the athletes at the Gourmet Sampler. Special Olympics will have tables set up to show Anderson residents what the organization is about. Some of the athletes, including one who is going to nationals for power lifting this summer, will be there to meet guests.