Skip to main content

Back Story - Operation: Fill The Stands

In 2013, my boys and I attended the Mecklenburg County Special Olympics Opening Ceremonies. We were 3 of perhaps 20 spectators. While we had an incredible time, I did wonder how much more fun and special the event could be if more people came to cheer on the athletes. I made myself a promise to bring more people along the following year.

In late March 2014, I started a campaign called Operation: Fill The Stands. The name came from the photo below that I snapped while at the 2013 event.

I am an "ask permission first" rather than "ask for forgiveness later" type of person, so I contacted Greg Morrill, director of the Mecklenburg Special Olympics to let him know what I had in mind. At that point of contact, I was hoping for a few extra people. With Mr. Morrill's blessing, I sent out 100 emails to family, friends and a few acquaintances expecting 20-30 more people to attend. On my Facebook page and blog, I posted the photo and asked for ways to get more spectators.

At first there was a trickle of interest and then over the weeks that followed, that interest grew. My expectations grew also. Perhaps 20-30 more people was not enough. What if there were a lot more people there?

After a few phone calls and messages that showed me people were getting behind this cause, I had the courage to contact WBT radio personalities about giving their support - I listen to them often and knew that they did assist with events such as these. Within seconds of pushing the send button for an email to John Hancock, the 3-6pm radio host on 1110 WBT Radio, I received a message, "Absolutely!"

An email foward and a church bulletin lead to a local news reporter, Sharon Smith, from WBTV interviewing Joey, Ben's community worker, on Easter Sunday. Once WBTV got the story, competition in the TV world took over and FOX Charlotte called me on Monday morning to setup an interview. Then Sharon Smith asked to meet Ben and talk with us on Monday. John Hancock emailed asking to talk with me that evening. It was a whirlwind of a day, but we made it through it all and the result was a lot of coverage for Operation: Fill The Stands. 

This snowballed into much more than I ever expected. Luckily, Mr. Morrill coped well with my ever increasing emails letting him know of more and more media requests.

The links below show all the stories, interviews and TV coverage.

WBTV - Sunday, April 20, 2014

WBTV - Monday, April 21, 2014

Fox News - Monday, April 21, 2014

WBT Radio - go to 6:53 for the start of interview - Monday, April 21, 2014

WBTV - Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Fox News - Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Charlotte Observer - Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Charlotte Observer - Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Blog Posts
The "Not to be Missed" Opening Ceremonies

Requesting an Audience
Opening Ceremonies for Mecklenburg Special Olympics
Operation: Fill The Stands
Full Enough
Kingdom of God in Bojangles Coliseum


Popular posts from this blog

Catching up with Ben

  I wish I had more time to write on eSpeciallyBen . Ben teaches us lessons on a regular basis: Smile often, give hugs, sit down and savor the moment, grab someone's hand to let them know you care and laugh with abandon–even if it annoys your brother. Ben will be 18 this summer. He attends high school in-person and enjoys seeing his classmates and teachers each day. In the photo above, it's 6 a.m. and he's can't wait to get on the bus. As for most people, the pandemic has been tough. Ben's in-person activities, camps and programs were canceled. He's happy to see grandma when we met on a Charlotte greenway or park. Ben seeks out social interactions and being quarantined away from friends and family was even more difficult because he didn't understand why. Ben's teacher sends me photos of him throughout the week. They just finished a rousing game of catch here.  Thank you for following eSpeciallyBen. If you want to see what I'm working on now, find me

A Lesson on Supplemental Security Income

In October, I received a letter from Social Security Administration saying that Ben no longer qualified for SSI AND we owed a very large over payment for two years of SSI that Ben did receive. The letter showed that we owned two of the same car. I knew this was wrong and immediately wrote a letter. I thought it was a computer glitch. Over the past five months, I have met with Social Security, spoke with several people over the phone and wrote countless letters providing documentation to show the cars we actually owned and filed appeals for the decision to revoke Ben's SSI during the two year period they think we owned these two cars. Tomorrow I have another meeting. I am hoping we can get this straightened out. This situation has caused a lot of stress for us and has taken a tremendous amount of our time trying to unravel the problem. I have not written a post in almost a month, partially because my brain power has been consumed with this issue and the bathroom saga (qualifies

Parenting an Adult Child with Disabilities: Talking About the Future

Ben in the middle with Dad (left), Carla Payne with Aging Care Matters and Mom This is the first of several posts about parenting an adult child with a disability. Ben will be 19 this summer; I am learning along the way. As always, I hope to pass on resources and wisdom. Discuss the future.  If your adult child is able to participate in planning for their future, ask them how they envision it. Let them draw a picture. Ask them to tell you a story. Maybe they can sign a few words that mean a lot to them. Find a way to get them involved. How do they see themselves living? By themselves, in a group home, with another family or with a sibling? Where do they want to live? In another city, in an apartment, in a house? How far away do they want to live from family? What level of independence can they handle? Do they want someone to check in on them? Do they want to find a job? Do they need a job coach or supportive employment? Who will help them with their finances? Is there someone they tru