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People First gearing up for July 26 Walk-a-Thon


By Jason A. Smith
Times Correspondent

  Henry County’s special-needs community is preparing to launch several fundraising efforts, heading into their biggest event of the year.

Participants at the 2013 Walk-a-Thon prepare to begin their walk. The 2014 Walk-a-Thon will be held Thursday, July 26 in McDonough.                                      Photo by Mickie Jackson

  People First of Henry County, a nonprofit organization dedicated to serving the special-needs community, will hold its annual Walk-a-Thon July 26 in downtown McDonough.

  Ricky Craig is in his seventh year of organizing the Walk-a-Thon. He said he supports People First’s mission to serve kids and adults with special needs.

  “I know 100 percent of the money raised goes for the kids’ activities,” said Craig. “I just think everybody should give back to the community if they can. Special-needs kids, those are the people I like to try to help.”

  Registration for the Walk-a-Thon will begin at 7 a.m., and the walk will start at 8 a.m. Participants will start their journey at the Henry County Board of Education, walk down Zack Hinton Parkway, around the Square and back down Keys Ferry Street.

  Craig said the event typically draws 75-100 people, all with the goal of raising money for those with special needs.

  “We’re hoping to have more people this year,” he said.

  Last year’s Walk-a-Thon raised $16,000 for People First. Craig hopes to meet or exceed that total this year.

  Joan Angelini, one of four directors for People First, said the money raised at the Walk-a-Thon each year goes toward free social activities for the special-needs community.

  “It keeps the special needs community engaged with their social skills, and it provides a friend base for kids,” she said. “They’ll make friends with each other.”

  People First sponsors an Easter party every year in the spring, and a Fall Festival in late September or early October, as a way to provide an outlet for special-needs residents and their families. Angelini added that each event usually brings more than 300 people every year.

  People First participants are looking forward to June 26, when they will watch the Henry Players in “A Year With Frog and Toad” at the Performing Arts Center. People First also hosts Bingo nights on a regular basis – bringing in 80-100 people each time -- and organizes trips to watch the Atlanta Dream women’s basketball team.

  Angelini said such activities help special-needs individuals, many of whom require “hands-on” care, to feel less isolated.

  “It gets them away from that environment, even for a couple of hours,” she said. “I don’t have a special needs child. I just got involved with them because they just touched my heart. They’re fun people.”

  In preparation for the walk, People First will host a first-ever bake sale Saturday from 8 a.m. to noon at Gander Mountain, located at 1970 Jonesboro Road in McDonough. The bake sale’s coordinator, Kim Eubanks, said 15-20 individuals, and several local companies, will bring various baked goods for the event.

  “We’re very excited about having it at Gander,” said Eubanks. “That’s a big plus for us. We’re also having a raffle drawing along with the bake sale, so we’re really excited about that as well. We’ll have all the goods in a wagon or wheelbarrow. It’ll be on display so everyone will have a chance to see what we’re offering. The good thing about the raffle is that you don’t have to be present to win.”

  Tickets will be available at the bake sale for another People First fundraiser, set for Sept. 9. Country singer Richie McDonald, and “American Idol” top 48 singer Madelyn Patterson, are scheduled to take the stage for a benefit concert at the Henry County Performing Arts Center in McDonough.

  For more information on the Walk-a-Thon, contact Joan Angelini at peoplefirstofhenry To find out more about the bake sale, e-mail Kim Eubanks at



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