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Carrying the Torch: Mike O’Donnell Special Olympics Fundraiser sheds light on a deserving cause

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There are only two organizations in the U.S. authorized to use the term “Olympics” in their names. One, of course, is the quadrennial, international games. The other is an organization known for supporting some of the most remarkable athletes in The Special Olympics. This Mother’s Day, a music-filled event, known as The Mike O’Donnell Special Olympics Fundraiser, will raise funds for the empowering organization at The Dubliner Irish Pub on Carolina Beach Road.

special olympics

Mike O’Donnell poses with a Special Olympian at last year’s event. Courtesy Photo.

The Special Olympics were founded by Eunice Mary Shriver in the 1950s and started as a backyard day camp for children with intellectual disabilities. It focused on helping campers gain new athletic skills and building self-confidence. The day camp has since evolved into a full-blown nationally recognized event known for its celebration of physical triumphs among individuals with special needs. The nonprofit organization relies on donations to serve the physically disabled individuals in the U.S., making fundraisers an imperative movement.

Mike O’Donnell is a local musician and songwriter, and owner of O’Zone Entertainment Inc. He has performed as a vocalist and guitarist for over 20 years impressively for six to seven days a week. The Special Olympics started as a family affair for O’Donnell, and he has remained involved with the organization for much of his life.

“My father was in charge of special needs in the Hanover, MA, school system,” O’Donnell says. “He got me involved with Special Olympics years ago by doing odd jobs for them.”

O’Donnell developed his own way of contributing to the cause through his love of music. For the last several years, O’Donnell, has donated his performance tips for the entire month of May to the cause.

“I decided about six or seven years ago that because I am fortunate enough to be able to make a living doing what I love that I wanted to find a way to give back,” O’Donnell tells.

Last April Dave Beauchamp contacted O’Donnell to get involved with the event. After collaborating on ideas, Beauchamp decided that hosting the event at The Dubliner Pub would bring in more people and subsequently raise more money. The plan worked; they raised $2,001 at the event alone, contributing to almost $4,000 that O’Donnell was able to donate to The Special Olympics last year.

“I suggested the next year we make the event bigger by getting more guys to come down and donate a set,” Beauchamp says. “That way it could turn into an annual showcase of local musicians, raising money for The Special Olympics.”

This year the concert will feature performances by an eclectic list of bands, including the retro-sounding blues of Chris McPeck, the acoustic country and rock of Stoney Creek, Americana blues singer and guitarist Sean Richardson, the outlaw folk music of Jim Ashley, and the traditional Irish stylings of The Molly Malones. O’Donnell will perform a set of his own, as well.

“If somebody can think of a song that Mike can’t play in nearly any genre, they should get an award,” Beauchamp remarks. “Although, I’m not quite sure what that award would be. He’s got a song list the size of the New York City White Pages.”

While there will not be a cover charge to attend the event, there will be plenty of other ways to donate to The Special Olympics. Guests will be able to purchase raffle tickets for prizes like  gift baskets, a Fairy Circle gift card, a gift voucher for Kat’s Taxi, and even boxes of Girl Scout cookies. The biggest prize will be four tickets to Winner Fleet’s Sunset Cruise in Carolina Beach. (A full list of raffle items is available on the Mike O’Donnell Special Olympic Fundraiser Facebook page,

Guests can also purchase Special Olympics wristbands and sealed envelopes for a chance to receive the lucky one containing a $100 bill. Plus, Beauchamp will include a bold donation opportunity of his own. For $10 per bucket, guests can make a donation in exchange to see Beauchamp participate in as many ice-bucket challenges as they want to throw his way. “Knowing some of my friends that will be there, I’ll probably be getting doused many times,” Beauchamp jokes.

All of the proceeds from the event will be donated to The Special Olympics. Thus far the team already has raised a little under $700. “I think it’s up to the individual as to whether they want to get involved or not,” O’Donnell says.


The Mike O’Donnell Special Olympics Fundraiser

The Dubliner Irish Pub
1756 Carolina Beach Rd
Sunday, May 10, 2 p.m.
Admission: Free
(910) 343-8342

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Encore Magazine regularly covers topics pertaining to news, arts, entertainment, food, and city life in Wilmington. It also maintains schedules and listings of local events like concerts, festivals, live performance art and think-tank events. Encore Magazine is an entity of H&P Media, which also powers Wilmington’s local ticketing platform, Print and online editions are updated every Wednesday.

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