man holding a special olympics medal

Early in 2016, Laura Miller with the Murray Rockets Special Olympics team approached our employees with an invitation to volunteer for the staging area of the Special Olympics Track and Field competition. This event is held at Murray State and is attended by over 120 special needs athletes across Western Kentucky. Although this was an area most of us were unfamiliar with, we were ready to show our support and lend a hand. At the time we had no idea the impact these athletes would make on our lives.

After spending an entire day being inspired by their courage, their strength to defeat their challenges and rise to the occasion with such joy and happiness, we were immediately inspired and humbled. It was evident that this was where we belonged. In the coming days, months and years we placed our focus on what we could do to improve this already amazing organization. And as the biblical word says, “ask and you shall receive.” Doors of opportunities began to open and the ideas started flowing.

Calloway County employees began participating each year in the Special Olympics signature fundraiser; The Polar Plunge. Our team has dedicated a total of 130 volunteer hours by jumping in freezing temperature waters, running 5K’s and individually fundraising for a total of $3552.00 being donated. But, we wanted to do more.

In the summer of 2018, we decided to offer a little something special for the lady Murray Rockets. Each year the athletes are honored at their annual Gala celebration. And we all know that such an event requires the ladies to look beautiful. Our team turned our location into a beauty salon and portrait studio and employees donated over $400 of their own money to provide hair, makeup, nails, photos, and even a special tiara for each lady. Our team spent the afternoon pampering each lady and absorbing their laughter and smiles. But still, we wanted to do more.

It came to our attention that the athletes were in need of some additional funds for future projects. Our team found it necessary that we find a solution to supply that need. From there, the Murray Rockets BBQ Plate Lunch FUNdraiser was created. Our employees volunteered over 120 hours and donated over $1000.00 of their own personal funds to purchase BBQ and sides to sell to the community. We solicited orders, assembled, packaged, and delivered 412 BBQ plate lunches for a grand donation of $4,194.00 to the Rockets. In addition to that day, we created a FUN environment at our Bank location which included jenga, corn hole, and crafts for our Murray Rocket athletes to come and enjoy.

It’s no surprise that in the fall of 2018, Independence Bank became the title sponsor for the first ever Special Olympic Fundraising Gala hosted by a very special group of community volunteers. Several members of our team attended this event which included a special night of food and entertainment with a silent and live auction. Together with our community the Special Olympic team received over $100,000.00 in donations.

In the coming months, our team is looking forward to being able to get involved with our athletes once again. With the onset of Covid, our efforts and time were completely diminished in 2020. Our team will be participating this month in our 5th year for the Area 1 Track and Field games for the Special Olympics. We have missed the athlete’s smiling faces, their fearless attitudes, and the life lessons they teach us. We look forward to future opportunities of jumping in freezing waters, painting finger nails, and plating lunches for their benefit. We truly believe that these simple moments can change the world.

It is my belief that we all have a place in this world. One that will enrich our life and the lives of others. In 2016, Calloway County found their place. And it all began with the love of some very special athletes.

Ashley Heath, Treasury Management Officer, Murray