Rebuilding Special Olympics in Walton County

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For the past year, Mike Schumacher and Jennifer Fitzgerald have been working hard to put together Walton County's Special Olympics program.

They first approached Special Olympics officials in neighboring Okaloosa County.

"We were approached by two parents that said we need your help, we want to revitalize and rebuild this program, can you help,” said Kim Christopher, Director of Walton and Okaloosa Counties Special Olympics. “We in Okaloosa County said that would be fabulous."

Both parents of special needs children, Schumacher and Fitzgerald were shocked to find out the county didn't have a program.

And that those children and adults with special needs had to travel to surrounding counties.

"When I moved here I said well surely they will have Special Olympics,” said Schumacher. “Come to find out they don't have one, and Jennifer ran into the same problem."

"No one had anything open for our kids to get involved in and that's what pushed me,” said Fitzgerald. “And I said what about Special Olympics and that is where we started."

Part of the problems stemmed from geography.

"There are people living in scattered places in the county,” said Christopher. “We had a lot in the north, some in the central area, and a few in the south. Well it was just hard to get to places."

But with the help from the Okaloosa County Special Olympics program, both chapters have been able to help many children and families in the community.

Schumacher says they have a long way to go, but it is all worth it.

Okaloosa County currently has more than 260 athletes and Walton County officials estimate they have more than 400.