Big Hearts: The Most Heartwarming Night of the Year

Vanessa Lawrence was picking up her son Charlie from camp this summer when he asked, “Mom, if I didn’t have braces on my legs, would I still get to come to camp?”

Surprised, Vanessa, said “I’m not sure, probably not.”

Charlie responded, “Well, it’s a good thing I have braces then.”

Charlie may have braces on his legs, but he still gets to enjoy all of the typical summer activities you or I did as a child. He plays sports, does arts and crafts, tries archery, plays on a slip n’ slide, and so much more each summer. Charlie gets to have these summer experiences with his friends because of ESP.

ESP is unique in its conviction that any child of any ability will not be limited by their disability. A child in a wheelchair can go horseback riding or a child who is nonverbal can star in a play. Often these individuals just need additional support to make it possible.

ESP has been creating these opportunities for people with disabilities and their families to engage, connect, and thrive for over 30 years. Since that first summer, ESP has grown to meet our families needs supporting and celebrating them throughout the year with not just camp, but after school programs, weekend outings, family support, and special events.

These special events not only support our participants and their favorite place, ESP, but also provide an opportunity for the surrounding community to engage with the ESP mission. The most heartwarming of these opportunities is Big Hearts. Held annually in February at The Classic Center in Athens, Big Hearts incorporates a ‘Pageant’, Banquet, and Silent Auction into an evening that celebrates individuals of all abilities. ESP performers and contestants share a moving story with the audience through song and dance. It leaves the audience laughing, crying, and feeling just a little more aware of the unique abilities of some of the biggest hearts in our community.

During last year’s Big Hearts, Charlie held the pivotal role of Jay, a sparrow born without tail feathers. A long-time ESP participant, Charlie’s infectious personality perfectly embodied the spirit of Jay. His observation about his braces perfectly reflected the 2017 Big Hearts story. While our participants and their families face a variety of challenges, they also have a unique perspective to share. It was in honor of these unique perspectives and ESP’s indomitable families that the Big Hearts story was crafted.

In 2018, ESP will once again honor and be inspired by the individuals and families of ESP. This year’s Be Bold theme recognizes the way ESP’s participants constantly make the bold choice to step out of their comfort zone at ESP.

It recognizes their parents who make the bold choice to entrust their child who may have had negative experiences elsewhere to the volunteers of ESP.

Additionally, Be Bold will recognize the Big Hearts attendees bold enough to support the individuals of all abilities and their favorite place: ESP.

Those interested in being bold with ESP this year, can do so in several ways. They can purchase a ticket to the pageant, sponsor the event, or donate a Silent Auction item. There is also a Banquet following the Pageant. Hosts and their guests enjoy tables of ten for an evening of gourmet dining and dancing to the band Cashmere. There is an open bar and a VIP cocktail hour. The Banquet is an opportunity to continue the evening of support for ESP, as well as a more intimate opportunity to interact with ESP’s individuals. Voted 2017’s Best Fundraiser, the Big Hearts Pageant and Banquet are can’t miss opportunities to enjoy an evening out in Athens!

Katarina Christmann
About The Author

Katarina Christmann

COORDINATOR OF COMMUNICATIONS Katarina Christmann studied Advertising and Art History at the University of Georgia and just graduated in May 2015. Katarina began as a Public Relations and Special Events Intern at ESP. The fast pace and variety of the work at ESP are what drew her to the position, but the kids are what kept her here. Katarina is from St. Simons Island. When she’s not spending time at ESP, Katarina loves baking, reading, and hiking. Katarina is beyond excited to continue her time here at ESP and to put her own touch on things!

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