Annual Walk-a-Thon fundraiser Saturday for People First

By Jason A. Smith
Times Correspondent

Ann Rape of McDonough says she is planning on lacing up her walking shoes, once again, to show her support for a cause that is close to her heart. She will be among the participants for the eighth-annual Walk-a-Thon this weekend to benefit People First of Henry County, an organization she believes is an asset to the area.

People First of Henry County raised more than $13,000 through last year’s Walk-a-Thon to fund events for the local special-needs community. The 2015 Walk-a-Thon is set for Saturday in downtown McDonough. Special photo

“I think Henry County is really blessed to have such a group in our county, because it’s benefited so many special-needs families,” says Rape. “Not all communities have that available to them. Anything we can do to support People First, they’re just a great group of people.”

The Walk-a-Thon is scheduled for Saturday at the administrative offices of the Henry County Board of Education, 33 N. Zack Hinton Parkway. Registration will begin at 7:30 a.m., with the walk to follow at 8 a.m. One hundred percent of the money raised through the event will go toward People First, a non-profit organization which provides free socials and other events for the special-needs community. There is no cost to participate in the walk, and donations will be accepted.

Rape has taken part in the walk several times through the years. She says she has enjoyed seeing individuals grow over time by being part of the group, and voiced her appreciation for the man who spearheaded the 1.2 mile walk eight years ago, Ricky Craig of McDonough.

“Ricky Craig has just done a great job of organizing this,” says Rape. “It seems to have grown every year.”

Participants in the walk will start at the Board of Education, walk down Zack Hinton Parkway, around the Square and back down Keys Ferry Street. Craig says 75-80 people participated in last year’s walk to raise money for those with special needs.

“You don’t have to make a donation to come and walk,” says Craig. “I don’t like telling people how to spend their money.”

He says he supports People First’s mission to serve the community, especially children.

“Special-needs kids are just a blessing,” says Craig. “Anything you can do for them, they appreciate it. The people who participate in the walk and donate, they get more from helping than the kids do from the social events.”

People First has served more than 800 different families over the past 13 years, says Connie Dodgen, one of three directors for the organization. She and fellow directors Joan Angelini and Cynthia Howard operate on a volunteer basis, with scores of supporters who donate their time to the group.

“We have a board of 30 volunteers, as well ask over 150 community volunteers that help us with events year-round,” says Dodgen. “We are so blessed to be trusted by the community, to use the funds collected for the kids and young adults.”

Last year’s Walk-a-Thon raised about $13,000 for People First. Dodgen says the walk plays a vital role in allowing the organization to serve its members.

“It helps us to sponsor the annual Fall Festival every year, and also to take the families to Atlanta Dream games this summer,” says Dodgen. “We are also offering a 50's party, and offer Bingo for prizes about every three months. All socials are free for the special-needs families.”

For more information on the Walk-a-Thon, call Ricky Craig at 770-957-6060.