Walk-a-Thon raises thousands for People First of Henry County

By Jason A. Smith
Times Correspondent

A record crowd showed up in full force over the weekend to support the local special needs community for the ninth annual Ricky Craig Walk-a-Thon Benefit for People First of Henry County.

A total of 106 people walked the streets of downtown McDonough for the fundraiser Saturday. Organizer Ricky Craig said the walk not only helps to fund social events for the organization, but also serves to educate the community.

Atlanta Dream mascot, Star, runs with participants at last Saturday’s 9th Annual Ricky Craig Walk-a-Thon Benefit for People First of Henry County. Photo by Donny Cotten

“It makes people more aware of People First,” he said. “A lot of people have heard of People First but don’t know what they do. It makes it possible to have more events for the kids. It’s our biggest fundraiser.”

The 1.2.-mile Walk-a-Thon took participants from the offices of the Henry County Board of Education down around the McDonough Square and back, with sponsorships raising money for People First. The non-profit organization provides free socials and other events throughout the year for the special-needs community.

Craig has helped put the walk together since its inception. Part of the reason he does so, he said, is due to the goals of its leadership to help those with special needs.

“I know the ladies that run it, and 100 percent of our money goes to the kids,” explained Craig. “I think if the good Lord blesses you with a good life and a healthy life, and you’re able to help, you should give back to the community.”

Connie Dodgen is a director with People First, along with Joan Angelini and Kristy Dobbs. Dodgen said preliminary totals for the walk have reached $11,000, with additional donations in the coming days.

“We’re very blessed to have all these people that trust us with their money, and they give us their time,” said Dodgen.

A combination of residents and community leaders, including District III Commissioner Gary Barham, joined 20 special-needs families for this year’s walk. The record for the most money raised for the occasion went to Ashley Hood of Hampton, who generated nearly $1,000 in donations.

Saturday marked the first People First Walk-a-Thon for David Tyree of Jonesboro, a special-needs participant in past events with the group. His sister, Janet Tyree, said David was excited to bring along four other family members to join him for the walk – some of whom came from as far as Ohio and West Virginia to do so.

“That just goes to show how much they support the things he does in his life,” said Janet, who lives with David. “We kept it a surprise that his brothers were coming. They wanted to make sure he had somebody he was walking with that could make sure he was going to be okay.”

Janet added that David has participated in similar events with other organizations, but hasn’t done so with People First until now. She said her brother wanted to do what he could to support the organization.

“To me, David is a leader in our family by doing this kind of thing,” Janet added.

David set a goal to raise $500 through the Walk-a-Thon. As of Monday afternoon, he had raised $455.

Still, his sister said David is not done yet.

“He came close to it, and we still have donations that are coming in the mail, so I’m confident he will exceed that goal,” said Janet. “He’ll make it one way or the other.”

For more photos of the Walk-a-Thon, visit The Henry County Times on facebook.