By Nancy R. Elliott
The Herald Bulletin
ANDERSON, Ind. —
Come hungry. It’s the 29th annual Gourmet Sampler, a fun, tasty event that helps raise funds for local Special Olympians.
Samplers are invited to savor the diverse offerings prepared and donated by many local restaurants on Sunday, April 14. It will all be served up at Mounds Mall in the former Sears space.
“It’s a great way to sample a lot of the taste of Madison County,” said event co-chair Gloria Long. “We have loads of food served in bite-sized portions.”
More than 30 restaurants are participating in the event this year, presenting a wide array of appetizers, salads, main entrees, desserts, breads and beverages with a mix of cuisines represented. Each restaurant will be prepared to dish up 800 portions. Diners will explore the variety, tasting as often as they like, while enjoying live music courtesy of Dan’s Music in Anderson. Special Olympics athlete Paul Porcaro will also sing at the event.
“It’s a classy way for the community to get involved and donate to Special Olympics,” said Michelle Calhoun, Special Olympics Madison County coordinator.
Special Olympics gives people with intellectual disabilities the opportunity to challenge themselves and to reach beyond their own limits through Olympic-style sports including swimming, basketball, bowling, weight lifting, track and field and golf.
Gourmet Sampler is a key fund raiser for the organization, helping to make things possible for the more than 200 Special Olympics athletes in the county. Donations help offset costs such as entry fees, transportation and equipment.
Rigo’s at Grandview in Anderson is coming to Gourmet Sampler for the first time. John Rigsby, Rigo’s co-owner, said they’ll be serving up tempting pulled pork and smoked chicken salad during the Gourmet Sampler, along with five wing and barbecue sauces.
“It will give people an opportunity to try what we feel are our signature dishes,” said Rigsby.
Slice of Heaven Cakery in Lapel will be back for a second year with the mini version of their popular cake balls.
“It’s something different for us,” said co-owner Kelcy Scott, for whom weddings are a frequent venue.
Gourmet Sampler raised $13,000 last year for Madison County Special Olympics, when more than 500 samplers nibbled on the offerings of 22 restaurants. With the big expansion of participating restaurants this year, Long is hoping to hit the $20,000 mark. She notes that the restaurants not only donate all the food, they pay $50 per table to participate.
“They’re really donating a lot to Special Olympics,” said Long.
Long has helped to organize the Gourmet Sampler effort for the last seven years after working at a facility with a unit for special needs adults. The experience affirmed for her the importance of empowering those with disabilities.
Long described her hope for the athletes, saying, “To be able to do things they enjoy, to have the quality of life that they want to experience.”