OKEECHOBEE -- When Kahootz Draft House heard Bernard Marker was looking for a place to hold a Christmas get together for the Special Needs community, they offered to close down for a few hours and host the event. On Monday, Dec. 20, more than 80 people, including 44 athletes, gathered for the second annual Adopt an Athlete affair.
Beginning last year, members of the community stepped up to adopt a special needs athlete for Christmas. Because of COVID-19, having the usual Christmas party was not possible in 2020, but Marker did not want the athletes to be disappointed. Instead of their usual party, he came up with the "adopt an athlete" idea and created a Facebook page specifically for that purpose. Each athlete's picture was posted, along with some of their likes, dislikes and requests from Santa. Members of the community had the opportunity to adopt one or more athlete. Each athlete could be adopted up to three times.
Last year, the gifts were dropped off at Brown Cow Sweetery, and the athletes came in with their caregivers to pick up their gifts. Due to covid, they were encouraged to come in at different times so there would not be a large gathering.
This year, with most, if not all, of the athletes and caregivers vaccinated, they felt it was safe to hold at least a small scale gathering.
The athletes each received gifts, got to see Santa and the Grinch and enjoyed refreshments and fellowship with friends they have not been able to get together with in a long time.
The athletes all wish to thank those who gave them gifts. Many of them were anonymous. They would also like to thank everyone who brought in refreshments and Kahootz for opening their doors for a wonderful celebration.