Vote yes to prevent cuts

Published 8:39 pm Wednesday, July 11, 2012

I have never seen a smile so big. As almost 100 sweet faces walked up to receive their trophy for the Special Olympics at Cahaba Center for Mental Health, the only words I can use to describe what I saw in their expressions is sheer joy.

In June, the Cahaba Center had its annual award ceremony and I had a chance to speak with some of the center’s coordinators about what makes the Special Olympics such a big deal to these athletes.

What breaks my heart is that all of the programming with the center could be in trouble if certain legislation is not passed in September. If citizens do vote yes for several pieces of legislation, the funding for the center would be cut in almost half. This means half of the current workers at the center would be unemployed and half of the special needs people that go to the center would be without the exemplary programs that Cahaba offers. Not to mention some would even be without a home.

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I cannot imagine how devastating financial cuts would be to this center.

One program that seems to some skeptics like all fun but a waste of funds is the center’s participation in the Special Olympics every year, but I could not disagree more.

One of the coordinators for the Cahaba Center, Floyd Sanders, told me about how engaged these special athletes are in their competition. He said that the trophies they receive and the medals they get are not just worn and displayed by the athletes on the awards day. On a daily basis, the athletes wear these awards. The Special Olympics competition is their sense of pride and accomplishment. It is what they live for.

Whether they compete in the softball throw or they run around the track, they may be limited as to what they can achieve in the corporate world, but this is where they shine. Special Olympic athletes are even honored for their events at their funerals. Sanders told me about how the men’s basketball team at Cahaba will get really into watching professional basketball on television and compare their own game to the pros.

But the Special Olympics is not the only program at Cahaba that provides something stimulating for those who go there. As I walked through the center, I came across something so incredible and heart warming — their ceramics department. If you have never been touched or inspired by the ceramics department at Cahaba Mental Health it is because you have never seen it. Beautiful and elaborate painted ceramics, all made by the residents by hand, pack the shelves on the wall in their activities room.

If these wonderful and inspiring things that give those residents at the Cahaba Mental Health Center a better quality of life were to ever cease, our community would greatly suffer. Vote yes in September to prevent budget cuts for Cahaba.