JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A local grocery store chain is stepping up to support athletes competing in the Special Olympics.
Special Olympics is the largest program of sports training and athletic competition for children and adults with disabilities and athletes get to participate free of charge.
Duval County has one of the largest Special Olympics programs in the state with more than 1,000 athletes participating every year.
The program wouldn't be possible without donations and sponsors like Publix. In January, they held a campaign urging people to "Be a Fan" of the athletes by donating to the Special Olympics program.
There was a time when Megan Bell said she couldn't walk around the block near her home in Jacksonville, but all of that has changed with Special Olympics.
Now she competes, doing things she never thought she'd be able to do.
"My favorite sports are surfing, flag football and running, of course," Megan said.
Megan is able to train year-round and compete, free of charge, with the help of sponsors like Publix.
"That's what we hang our hats on -- community engagement," said Dwaine Stevens, media and community relations manager for Publix. "We do more than just sell groceries -- we want to be part of the community, we want to have healthy communities, and be a great neighbor and Special Olympics has been a great partner of ours for over three decades."
In 2013, Publix raised more than $3 million for Special Olympics and it hopes to top that this year.
"Our customers always step up to the plate. This campaign has been extremely successful for us so far," said Stevens.
Publix doesn't stop there. They employ people with disabilities, many are Special Olympians.
"That makes it really unique for us because, we know, those athletes are part of the Publix family and we're proud to support their efforts," said Stevens.
Their campaign focuses on the athletes. Megan's picture can be seen on signs and ads throughout the store. Publix wants to show customers how rewarding it is to "be a fan."
"With all the programs that Special Olympics does to help their athletes, it's something that's good for the community," said Stevens.
Even Bell gets involved in the campaigning, she's been spending a lot of her time at local Publix's raising money herself, for a program she said has given her so much.
"It's done a little bit of good... it's given me confidence," said Megan.
While you're at Publix you can support the Special Olympics by purchasing a paper torch during check-out. You can buy them for $1, $3, $5 or $10 and in return you'll receive more than $12 worth of coupons.
Wednesday is the last day of the campaign. For more information, visit the Duval County Special Olympics.
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