The oral history of the relationship between Special Olympics North Carolina and the NC Knights of Columbus far surpasses that of its written history. It is collectively understood that this mutualistic bond has been in existence since many can remember.
Colin Jorsch attributes to the piecing together of that puzzle. Former State Deputy for the NC Knights of Columbus, he now represents the organization as a Special Olympics North Carolina Board member. In finding his place in both groups, his life has become a woven masterpiece of each of these threads.
“I have been part of the Knights of Columbus for 20 years,” said Jorsch. “In the beginning, one of the members invited me to go to a storefront, put on a yellow vest and hand out Tootsie Rolls. After about a half hour, I asked, ‘What are we doing?’”
What they were doing, exactly, was representing the Knights of Columbus’ LAMB (Least Among My Brethren) Foundation of NC, Inc. The LAMB program directly supports institutions that care for people with intellectual disabilities.
Of those is Special Olympics North Carolina. Now a Championship-level sponsor of Special Olympics North Carolina, the Knights are a motivated fan base. For at least the past decade, over $100,000 is raised annually by the NC Knights of Columbus for local and state-level Special Olympics North Carolina efforts.
“He told me what LAMB was and what we supported,” said Jorsch. “I just thought that it was amazing that it was exactly what every human being should be doing – helping the less fortunate.”
LAMB Director Richard White works to encourage members to network with local Special Olympics North Carolina leadership in continuing to strengthen the relationship. From selling chocolate taffy-like candy to offering manpower at a local Spring Games, their efforts are aimed at the establishment of a more inclusive world, one in which individuals with intellectual disabilities can achieve their fullest potential.
“LAMB was officially incorporated in 1999,” said White. “Most of the money we raise goes to schools, classrooms and programs serving those with intellectual disabilities. It’s just amazing and it has always been a need.”
Anyone faced with the task of building a table understands that the tabletop will not be supported without the legs. For Special Olympics North Carolina and LAMB, the two become a sturdy base, providing the needed foundation for what will rest upon them.
“The Knights of Columbus in North Carolina has consistently been one of the strongest supporters and sponsors of Special Olympics,” said Special Olympics North Carolina President/CEO Keith L. Fishburne. “We are so very appreciative for all that they provide through their volunteer leadership.”
Special Olympics Gaston County athlete Jae Huffman understands the sentiment of helping others and benefitting from that help. As an athlete and a member of the NC Knights of Columbus, Jae takes both roles seriously.
“I converted to Catholicism in 2018,” said Huffman. “That year, I joined the St. Gregory Knights of Columbus Council 6700 because I heard it was such a great organization.”
Huffman is among the 40,000 Special Olympics North Carolina that is impacted by every Tootsie Roll distributed, every award presented and every greeting offered by the Knights of Columbus at a local Spring Games or state-level event.
“For me, I am absolutely in love with helping out,” said Jorsch. “The athletes give far more than they could ever take.”
The NC Knights of Columbus and SONC weave a picture of a more inclusive world, setting up firm foundations across the state. These are the ties that bind.