People First to host 2018 Walkathon for special-needs community

By Jason A. Smith
Times Correspondent

Wendy Holmes of Hapeville and her 14-year-old son, James, have been coming to People First of Henry County’s events for about six years. Holmes said she is grateful to People First for giving James, who has autism and other disabilities, a way to meet people and make new friends.

“We travel to Henry County for everything to do with People First and with Henry County Parks and Recreation,” she said. “Honestly, I would travel as far as I need to because through People First, James has grown and done things he would never have been able to do without them.”

Participants at the 2017 Ricky Craig Walkathon pause for a photo before starting the walk, which is the main fundraiser for People First of Henry County, an organization that provides social activities for special needs children and adults. File photo

The mother and son will be among the participants in the 11th annual Ricky Craig Walkathon benefiting People First July 28 at 8 a.m. It will begin at the administrative offices of the Henry County Board of Education, 33 N. Zack Hinton Parkway in McDonough.

Holmes added People First’s board members and volunteers have helped special-needs children and adults like James to grow in their confidence and their sense of belonging.

“They fit, and they can be themselves,” said Holmes. “Because of the social activities that James is able to do through People First, he has made many friends and done things his doctors never expected he would do socially.”

Ricky Craig of McDonough spearheaded the nonprofit organization’s Walkathon more than a decade ago. He said last year’s event drew the biggest crowd ever, with about 150 participants raising money for People First.

“I think that in part of your life, you should try to give back,” said Craig. “I think if the good Lord blesses you like he has me and my family, you should try to give back if you can.”

People First raised $20,000 through last year’s Walkathon. This year’s event will be in memory of Craig’s father, former McDonough Mayor Richard Craig.

Ricky Craig described his father as a faithful supporter of People First and the Walkathon.

“He always helped us raise money, every year since I started the Walkathon,” said Ricky. “Like me, he just believed you should give back to your community if you can.”

Melissa Howard is a director with People First along with Kristy Dobbs and Pamela Young-Wynn. Howard said she and her family have been involved in the Walkathon for six years, and that the walk helps to fund festivals, Bingo nights, trips to Dollywood and other events for the special-needs community throughout the year.

“This walk is really special to me because not only does it raise money but it raises awareness that these kids can do anything,” said Howard. “I walk for my son Garrett so he can have the same opportunities at social activities as any other 14-year-old. And, it is important to me because it gives an identity to what People First is, and it is a way for the community to get a glimpse of the awesome people and families we are made up of.”

For more information, call Ricky Craig 770-957-6060 or e-mail peoplefirstofhenrycounty