Bass tournament a big hit with Area 10 officials

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 29, 2004

[7/29/04]What started at a brainstorming session to raise a little more money for the Area 10 Special Olympics than could be realized from donations has grown to where the organization may be on the verge of having its own athletic fields.

Area 10, which consists of Warren, Claiborne and Yazoo counties in Mississippi, puts on athletic competitions for handicapped individuals every year that include track and field, bowling, softball, aquatics, basketball, volleyball and horseshoes. There are more than 300 athletes who participate each year in both local and state events. One of the Area 10 athletes was able to represent the area in the World Games in Ireland in 2003.

One of Area 10’s biggest fundraising events every year is its Large Bass Tournament, now in its ninth year.

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“About nine years ago, the Special Olympics management team met at the (downtown) YMCA and we were brainstorming because we really needed to raise more money,” said Nancy Biggers, the executive director of Area 10 for 15 years before resigning the post in June 2002.

Prior to that, the local high school Key Clubs would put on car washes and other civic clubs would make donations, she said. But the Area 10 group really needed more money for transportation, T-shirts and equipment than could be realized that way.

“Bob Oglesby was employed at Grand Gulf (Nuclear Station) and he said, I fish with a bunch of boys and I bet I could get them to put on a fishing tournament for us,'” Biggers said.

Oglesby, whose daughter Robin is a Special Olympian, brought the idea to his fishing buddies in the Grand Gulf Bass Club. The membership not only got on board, they jumped on board and put on the first large bass tournament on Eagle Lake in 1997. Since then, the club and the Area 10 leaders have put on a total of five tournaments on Eagle Lake and two on Lake Chotard with Chotard Landing as the headquarters.

The tournaments have raised more than $40,000 to help Area 10 put on its annual competitions.

Biggers said she is always amazed that the Grand Gulf Bass Club members have been able to maintain the level of enthusiasm over the years.

“A lot of them have never been (to a Special Olympics) event,” Biggers said, adding the reason is Area 10 events are normally held during the work week when the bass club members are at work.

“If it had not been for Bob, I don’t know where Special Olympics would be,” she said.

With this year’s Large Bass Tournament, the Grand Gulf Bass Club and Area 10 Special Olympics are poised to move on to the next level.

Heidi Chausse, who has been executive director for the past two years, is excited by the possibilities of the five-year plan the two organizations have put into effect.

The kick off this year came in the form of a fully rigged SX 170 Skeeter bass boat with a 90-hp Yamaha outboard the organizations have arranged to get at a nominal cost through Mississippi Marine of Brookhaven.

They have had 10,000 tickets printed to raffle off the fishing-ready rig and will be selling them for $5 each. Even after paying the relatively small price for the fishing rig, Area 10 stands to realize nearly $50,000 if all of the tickets are sold.

“We have never had the potential of making this much money before,” Chausse said.

And Area 10 has large plans for the large money.

Plans call for Area 10 to eventually buy land where it can build its own athletic facilities.

No firm plans have been made and no locations have been selected yet, although Chausse said Area 10 would like to build the facility in the Vicksburg-Warren County area.

“It would also be a park open to the public and it would be fully handicapped accessible.”