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Charlotte sponsor of US Paralympic Team Trials is $25,000 short of goal

(L-R) Sophia Brunk, 7, U.S. Paralympic athlete Tucker Dupree, Rui-Ray Patterson, 6, and Jayson Patterson, 8, attended a May press conference to raise awareness of the 2016 U.S. Paralympic Team Trials in Charlotte.
(L-R) Sophia Brunk, 7, U.S. Paralympic athlete Tucker Dupree, Rui-Ray Patterson, 6, and Jayson Patterson, 8, attended a May press conference to raise awareness of the 2016 U.S. Paralympic Team Trials in Charlotte. jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

With 400 athletes from across the nation due in Charlotte next week, local organizers of the U.S. Paralympic Team Trials say they remain $25,000 short of a campaign goal to stage the event, which starts June 30.

Partners for Parks, the local organizing committee, says it has raised only $75,000 of the $100,000 needed to cover costs associated with the trials, even after putting in $25,000 of its own money from unrestricted funds. More volunteers are also needed to help, officials said.

“Events start next week, so we’re facing a deadline,” said Doug Youngblood of Partners for Parks. “We’ve contacted some big-name players in the business community and not gotten anything. They aren’t interested, or they have given to Special Olympics and don’t understand this is different.”

The difference is that U.S. Paralympics is a division of the U.S. Olympic Committee. It will be one of the largest national events ever staged for athletes with physical disabilities, with winners set to compete in the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Charlotte trial events include swimming, cycling, and track and field.

Roughly 1 in 4 of the athletes who come to Charlotte will be picked for Team USA. U.S. Paralympic officials say this year’s team will be the largest in history. The Rio games, Sept. 7-18, will be the largest Paralympic competition in history, with 4,500 athletes from 176 countries, said U.S. Olympic Committee officials.

U.S. Olympic Committee officials say the Charlotte trials are a first, because never before has there been an event staged that brought together multiple team trials to create a single sporting event.

Partners for Parks landed the games a year ago, in part because there were sites in the area suitable for multiple sporting competitions. The nonprofit group is hoping to get enough donations to cover the costs, along with volunteers to handle the bulk of the workload. To donate, visit partnersforparks.org/donate, or call 704-336-8844.

Among the donors who have stepped up to help so far are the Blumenthal Foundation, Hanger Charitable Foundation, Musco Sports Lighting, Procter & Gamble and Mark Oil. Novant Health Care is providing sports medicine doctors and trainers at no cost.

Youngblood says Partners for Parks could end up having to cover the needed $25,000 itself. The money would come from Partners in Parks unrestricted funds, intended for projects to preserve and promote local parks and greenways. “And we’d really prefer not to use that money,” he said.

Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority is coordinating volunteers for the trials. The agency says it has already lined up about 200 volunteers, including contingents from Bank of America and Duke Energy. However, two dozen more are still needed for such things as helping athletes to the starting line and being official timers. To volunteer, email clt.volunteers@crva.com.

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