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More athletes than ever participated in an Exclusive Masked 2020 Version of The Arc Special Olympics in late October.

Masks and social distancing are the new norm with The Arc of Cumberland County.

Promoting the well-being of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities  has always been The Arc’s mission and purpose. And the year 2020 has been no different in that respect. But because of the challenges brought about by the pandemic, The Arc has had to be creative in how it goes about usual activities in order to keep all safe and healthy. 

The Arc representatives said; those efforts would have been sorely compromised this year without the continued support and partnership with the Cumberland County United Fund. 

People with intellectual and developmental disabilities are particularly vulnerable to the virus. The new normal of accepting and adjusting to mask requirements, social distancing and being isolated from friends, family and social interaction has been especially unsettling for them.

All too often, they are even more isolated and have few, if any, opportunities to feel a part of the community, even in normal times.

Early on in the pandemic, The Arc implemented a small-letter writing campaign so these  folks would get a piece of mail periodically and know their friends were thinking of them.

When the bowling alley reopened, structured athletics participants were among the first to put a spin on the ball. 

To date, The Arc has enjoyed two six-week seasons of bowling with anywhere from 8-15 folks with intellectual and developmental disabilities enjoying the fun. 

Nora Davis and Denny Roy coordinated all the events that included wearing masks, using hand sanitizer and respecting each other’s space. 

There were about 25-30 participants in structured athletics baseball this fall safely enjoying the outdoor play at Centennial Park and especially the social interaction.

As a special treat, an Exclusive Masked 2020 Version of The Arc Special Olympics returned to Cumberland County the last week of October, with plenty of fun, games, social distancing, masks, hand sanitizer and T-shirts to share. 

Events were Oct. 26 at Stone Elementary, Stone Memorial High School and Homestead Elementary. The school events were coordinated by Marlene Holton, special education director for Cumberland County Schools, and her staff.  

Eligible students passed through a tunnel of their peers at their respective schools led by Hunter Pugh, the 2013 winner of The Arc Tennessee Self-Determination Award. 

Peterson Park was the site for the first group of adult athletes. Jessica Wyatt and Glenda Bond, The Arc of Cumberland County board of directors, and Pugh presented the smiling athletes their medals and ribbons.

Other small groups of adult athletes showed up at Peterson Park throughout the day Oct. 27. Weather forced competition inside at Hilltopper’s Day Center on Oct. 29. Jeremy Connor, family engagement specialist for The Arc of Tennessee; Grant Thurman, Bond, Clint VanDorn, Glenda Witt, Kate Witt and Wyatt representing The Arc at Cumberland County board, along with Hilltopper’s Inc. staff, conducted the adult events. 

Oct. 28, Nora Davis, The Arc board member and structured athletics leader; Bond; Holly Neal, Cumberland County United Fund executive director; Chad Hilton and Lisa Davis, 2017 and 2019 The Arc Tennessee Self-Determination winners, respectively, cheered student athletes at Martin Elementary, Phoenix/Baby Birds and Cumberland County High School as they received their medals and ribbons at their respective schools.

The 2020 games concluded Nov. 2 at Phoenix/Transition Academy.

While The Arc at Cumberland County looks forward to a return of more traditional games in 2021, they believe there is some definite merit in the 2020 masked efforts, with more athletes participating than ever before.

Santa and his Arc Elves, Kate Witt, Glenda Witt, Josh Hudgins, Josh Green, Glenda Bond, Nora Davis, Betsy Shelton and Kim Coia have filled 33 Santa bags for individuals and families this Christmas.

Warm clothing, shoes, toiletries, household items and of course toys, games, crayons, coloring and picture books made the bags heavy and complete. 

In addition to the United Fund, The Arc is also grateful for generosity of community partners and friends, including area businesses, Hilltoppers, Inc., Cumberland County Schools, City of Crossville, the Knights of Columbus and the MR Foundation of Tennessee, who always can be counted on to help The Arc implement activities and programs.

Even though people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families are more isolated by necessity these days, The Arc of Cumberland County representatives are strengthened knowing they have neighbors helping neighbors in Crossville and Cumberland County. Indeed, there is no place like home in normal or pandemic times.  

Visit www.thearccumberlandcountytn.org or call 931-456-0206 for more information or to learn how to become involved with The Arc.

Those who would like to help the United Fund offer support to 36 nonprofits like The Arc can donate easily and safely online at www.cumberlandunitedfund.org or by mailing a tax-deductible donation to 348 Taylor St., Suite 101, Crossville TN 38555.

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