The Upper Arlington Special Olympics program month will host its second annual Sip of UA next month to support local athletes.
In the past 20 years, athlete participation in the UA Special Olympics program has risen from about 10 to 70.
Along with that growth, local coaches have confronted challenges to finance the athletes' year-round training, as well as necessities such as uniforms, equipment, facilities rentals and referees.
So last year, the UA Special Olympics program held its first Sip of UA, a wine-tasting event featuring a series of raffles. Thanks to support from Leadership UA and the local community, more than 220 people attended and almost $7,000 was raised.
"We just mostly wanted to have a social outing for our Special Olympics parents, and it kind of grew from that," said Jill Hess, Sip of UA co-chairwoman and parent of a UA Special Olympian. "Leadership UA took it on as a project last year and did a fantastic job."
The second annual Sip of UA -- this year featuring wine and beer -- will take place from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. April 12 at St. Agatha Church Parish Hall, 1860 Northam Road.
Registrations for the event are being accepted through April 1. Donations of $35 or more per person will ensure admittance, and proceeds will go to support UA Special Olympics.
"We're raising money for the Special Olympics for the Upper Arlington branch," Hess said. "The money we raise not only will go to try to get an athlete and maybe a family member or two to the national or international Special Olympics event, but it will go for things like uniforms, gym rentals and referees.
"We rely totally on fundraisers for these expenses," she said.
Donations also will be accepted from those who don't wish to attend, she said.
Wines for the tasting are being donated to the Sip of UA by Heidelberg Distributing, and Hess said there will be a multitude of beer-tasting options.
There will be no limit to the number of beverages attendees can taste.
"We're going to run the gamut," Hess said. "We're going to have lower-end wines and beers and higher-end, and they'll be from all over."
Additionally, light appetizers will be served and UA Special Olympians' art will be raffled off.
"Everyone who comes gets one raffle ticket with their donations, but you also can buy more (raffle) tickets," Hess said. "The items we're raffling are art pieces that our athletes have made.
"Those were a big hit last year."
A "limited number" of tickets for those who don't RSVP for the event will be available at the door, but Hess encouraged early registration, as organizers are expecting a large turnout.
"A lot of people make donations to the Special Olympics, but those donations they make never, ever reach our branch in Upper Arlington," she said. "The most important thing is this benefits our athletes directly. Every single penny goes to them.
"It's a really fun event and it's a great cause."