A young boy in our community needs help


OKEECHOBEE — The Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Office and Special Olympics manager are planning a fundraiser to help a child get the wheelchair he needs.

A South Elementary School student has outgrown his wheelchair, and needs help from the community to buy a new one.

Bernard Marker, who coordinates the Special Olympic events for Okeechobee County, was contacted by the 10-year-old boy’s school, and he jumped in with both feet, calling his friend, Sheriff Noel Stephen to ask for his help. Stephen is known for his skills with a barbecue grill and for his willingness to help when someone in the community has a problem.

The two men have planned a benefit BBQ to be held at 11 a.m. on Friday, March 26. The menu consists of pulled pork, baked beans, coleslaw and either Seminole Fry Bread or a roll. The cost will be $10 per plate, and free delivery for five or more plates will be provided. Stephen will be cooking the meat with help from others in the OCSO.

The event is sponsored by Sheriff Stephen, Publix and Kahootz.

The young boy who will be the recipient of the wheelchair is a member of Special Olympics and has been in a wheelchair since he was a toddler. Normally, Medicaid provides medical equipment, but they only supply some things every five years, and the young man had a growth spurt before it was time for a new chair. He needs a specialty chair, and they cost about $4,000. An anonymous donor paid for the food and donated towards the wheelchair, so with his help, they only need to raise about $3,000 now. All proceeds from the dinner will go toward purchase of the wheelchair.

Art work by local artist Glen Whirls was donated and will be raffled off.

The OCSO is very involved in the Okeechobee Special Olympics and Okeechobee’s special needs community members, and each year, they hold a torch run to help raise funds for the group. Due to COVID-19, the event was canceled last year. Normally, they hold the one in Okeechobee in the spring, but this year, they are planning to wait until the fall in the hopes the virus will not have such a grip on the town. One of the things the law enforcement participants look forward to the most each year is the end of the torch run when all the Special Olympic athletes meet them at Publix and walk or run the final few yards with them. This is followed by a BBQ lunch. If the Special Olympic athletes cannot be there due to COVID, it takes a lot of the fun out of the event for everyone involved. By waiting until October, Stephen hopes the athletes will be able to participate. “We really enjoy the fellowship with the athletes,” said Stephen.

To purchase a ticket for the wheelchair fundraiser, contact the OCSO 863-763-3117, Bernard Marker 863-801-3393 or Kahootz 863-357-6101.