Back for its seventh year, an annual party to celebrate and support Upper Arlington Special Olympics will return April 13.

The Sip of UA Annual Wine & Beer Tasting is a signature fundraiser for UA Special Olympics that, since its inception, has grown from raising $3,000 to about $20,000.

That money is vital to providing social experiences and athletics opportunities to for the 80 children and adults with special needs in Upper Arlington, Grandview and Marble Cliff who take part in the program. It pays state fees for participating in variety of sporting programs, equipment and uniforms for athletes.

"There is never any charge for athletes to participate any of the sports," said Sally MacGregor-Martin, an organizer for this year's Sip of UA. "Families pay nothing.

"(Sip of UA) is our only fundraiser to support the program."

This year's event will take place at St. Agatha Parish Hall, 1860 Northam Road, Upper Arlington.

For $75 per person, guests can take part in a VIP Hour from 6-7 p.m. that will feature specialty foods and wine tastings.

Non-VIP tickets also are available for $40 per ticket, and will offer light appetizers and a "large selection of wines & beer," from 7-9 p.m.

You must be 21 to attend, and dress is business casual. Tickets can be purchased through www.eventbrite.com, or by sending a check payable to Upper Arlington Special Olympics to Cathy Lucks at 4411 Lowestone Road, Upper Arlington, Ohio, 43220.

"Sip of UA is a heartwarming event with an atmosphere of joy as people interact with the athletes, create new friendships and find ways to support others in the community," MacGregor-Martin said.

"Everyone seems to have a common goal of helping others."

MacGregor-Martin said the food and drinks at Sip of UA are exceptional, but noted the event's highlight is the opportunity for the community to learn more about the UA Special Olympics program and athletes.

Many of the program participants attend, and this year Colin Schaffer will be the featured athlete.

"The most exciting part of the evening is that there will be UA Special Olympians there to meet and greet the patrons," MacGregor-Martin said. "The patrons will get to see photos and meet some of the people they are supporting.

"Colin expressed interest in speaking at this year's event, and he has been participating in basketball, soccer, softball and track for over 20 years," MacGregor-Martin said.

There also will be a silent auction featuring items and experiences donated by many local businesses and local artists including athletes.

"UA Special Olympics provides social experiences and opportunities for the athletes that they would not otherwise have access to," MacGregor-Martin said. "It is a chance for older athletes to mentor and interact with the younger athletes.

"Special Olympics provides opportunities for all ages: eight to 108! They get to meet athletes from others in districts of central Ohio. It also provides an avenue for the athletes to compete, which is important for their personal growth."

More information about Sip of UA can be found on the group's Facebook page, and at www.ua-so.org.

nellis@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekNate