The Charleston Bocce Bash to benefit the Special Olympics of South Carolina has been holding court on Daniel Island since 2000. But this year’s event, set to take place Saturday, Sept. 18, will roll in some new milestones.
The festive and spirited competition for a cause will celebrate its 20th anniversary in a new location in 2021 (they had to skip last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic) — shifting from the former MUSC Health Stadium to Bishop England High School. But perhaps the most significant “score” came in recent weeks, when the combined fundraising efforts over the past two decades officially surpassed the $1 million mark.
“The Daniel Island Community Fund gave us $10,000 for this event,” noted Amy Gege, marketing and development associate for Special Olympics of South Carolina. “And that’s actually what pushed us over $1 million. We were super excited to receive that!”
Funding generated through the event goes directly to supporting programs for more than 30,000 special needs individuals across the state.
“There is never a cost for our athletes to participate in any program provided by Special Olympics South Carolina,” Gege added. “All uniforms, equipment, travel, lodging, school resources and health resources are provided…through dollars raised at fundraising efforts like the Bocce Bash. Every new dollar raised represents a new
family we can assist, students we can educate about inclusion, and communities we can grow awareness in.”
For athletes with disabilities, participating in Special Olympics can be a real game-changer.
“People think of Special Olympics as a once a year track meet, or something like that,” Gege said. “But it’s so much more ... (They get) a sense of inclusion. The friendships they build. The chance to be a champion at something. It’s great.”
Special Olympics athlete Kylie MacFarland, who competes in tennis, trains regularly on Daniel Island to prepare for her competitions. She and several of her fellow athletes gathered on the island Sept. 11 to take part in the 9/11 Heroes Run. MacFarland has earned multiple medals in her sport and is a huge fan of the Special Olympics experience.
“It means competition, doing a good job, and also meeting new friends!” she said.
MacFarland’s friend Grant Barker, a senior at Bishop England High School, is also a Special Olympics athlete competing in swimming, tennis, CrossFit, and basketball.
“The Special Olympics is a good organization,” Barker said. “... It’s a lot of fun!”
Close to 128 teams, most of them local businesses, clubs and other organizations, will take the field at Bishop England this weekend in support of MacFarland, Barker and thousands of other athletes. Gege describes the Bocce Bash more like a “big tailgate” event that started small but has grown into an annual Charleston tradition.
“There are so many charity golf tournaments out there,” Gege said. “But not everybody plays golf. Anybody can play bocce! ... It just grew over the years and grew in popularity. It’s turned into a corporate networking fundraising event.”
Teams of four will gather on 32 courts laid out across the field and compete in a morning round robin. The winners will then advance to a single elimination in the afternoon. The team scoring the most points in the end wins a trophy to display until the next Bocce Bash — and plenty of bragging rights.
“There is no prize money, but we give medals,” Gege added. “Our Special Olympics athletes put the medals on them. It’s the best!”
Former Daniel Island resident Chad Vail has participated in the Bocce Bash from the very beginning through a team for the Daniel Island Rotary Club. Vail and his wife, April, are the proud parents of a Special Olympics athlete, Claire, 17, who has Down syndrome. For their family, the event is extra special.
“Over the years, Claire has grown up attending the event, and truly enjoys the party atmosphere!” Vail said. “As a member of the Rotary Club of Daniel Island, the Bocce Bash has been a terrific opportunity for fellowship with other members — we always have a great turnout of members cheering on our teams.”
Vail describes the Bocce Bash as one of those “classic Charleston events that brings out the best in people.”
“I’ve had the honor of being a player and a fan over the years, and it’s wonderful to see so many people enjoying the competition and supporting Special Olympics programs,” Vail continued. “When you offer local companies and organizations the opportunity to come together to compete in such a fun environment, raising money for such a worthy cause, it’s a win for all.”
The 2021 Bocce Bash is presented by title sponsor Atlas Technologies Inc., a local company that will have 12 teams participating.
“It is one of those events that everyone who has ever participated is looking forward to next year,” noted John Jones, senior vice president of corporate development at Atlas Technologies. “If you’ve been once, you want to go again and bring someone new. We have a great organization at work (our Positive Impact Team) and we encourage each member to ‘bring their passion,’ meaning to come share with us what organization or cause is what they care about; to find ways to help them achieve their mission. The Special Olympics is my passion. But on this day, it feels like it’s everyone’s passion ... It’s just a fun, unifying event that raises money for a great
And Jones is especially thankful to be able to gather again in person for the event this year.
“We know how impactful it is to the Special Olympics when this doesn’t happen,” he said. “That’s one of the reasons we are so excited for it to happen this year.”
Registrations for the event are still being accepted. The cost is $500 per team or corporations can serve as a sponsor at a variety of fundraising levels, starting at $1,500.
For more information, to register, or to make a donation, visit boccebash.com.
IF YOU GO
• When: Saturday, Sept. 18, gates open 8 a.m., play starts at 9:30 a.m.
• Where: Bishop England High School - Jack Cantey Stadium, 363 Seven Farms Drive, Daniel Island
• How it works: Games are played on 32 courts with teams of four.
• Presented by: Title sponsor Atlas Technologies to benefit the Special Olympics of South Carolina
• Cost per team: $500. To register, make a donation, or for more information, visit boccebash.com.
Did you know?
The Bocce Bash, now in its 20th year on Daniel Island, has raised over $1 million for the Special Olympics of South Carolina. Below are just a few ways those fundraising dollars have helped assist thousands of Special Olympics athletes statewide.
● Special Olympics South Carolina provides athletes opportunities for sports training and competitions in 26 different sports, including bowling, basketball, golf, tennis, soccer, powerlifting, kayaking, skiing, and track and field. Over 30,000 adults and children with intellectual disabilities participate in Special Olympics SC programs, making it the sixth largest program in the nation.
● Special Olympics SC provides more than 400 local, regional and statewide competitions annually and sends delegations around the country and around the world for national and world competitions. Next summer, local athletes will travel to Orlando, Florida, for the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games.
● There is never a cost to participate in any program provided by the organization. All uniforms, equipment, travel, lodging, school resources and health resources are provided free of charge to all Special Olympics SC athletes.