Outpouring of support saves event for disabled people

Charlotteans didn't take well to news that the region's 29th annual gathering of people with disabilities was being canceled due to a lack of funding.

Randy Cornell, of Physically Disabled Adults Inc., found this out when he made his weekly visit to the nonprofit group's P.O. box.

“The box was stuffed full of checks,” says Cornell, who revealed the money shortage in an Aug. 18 Observer article. “I was shocked. Three of them were for over $2,000. Some envelopes had just a check, but others came with letters and they were so sweet.”

Final count: $13,120.

The Sept. 13 Picnic for the Disabled at the Marion Diehl Center is now a sure thing.

The event dates to 1979, when a Charlotte police officer, the late Ben Davis, and his wife, Patsy, invited 25 people with disabilities to a picnic at Freedom Park. The Davises continued the picnic for more than a decade and it grew by dozens and then hundreds.

PDA took over sponsorship 16 years ago, with the assistance of such groups as the Mecklenburg County Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 9. “We expect about 600 people this year,” says Cornell.

The economy is blamed for a lack of donations at PDA's events this year, he says, including a bowl-a-thon. However, the group has enough now for the next three picnics.

“What's good about that,” Cornell says, “is our group was formed to support newly disabled people coming out of the hospital. But raising funds for the picnic got so time consuming that we spent all our time on that. Now, we can go back to helping people.”