œCoffee for Champions  Creates New Support for Special Olympics

Proceeds from August sales to benefit Buncombe County Special Olympics


As a relative newcomer to Special Olympics, I’ve learned generating money and community support form the most pressing program challenges. Coffee shops seemed to be a natural partner for our program as they create an environment of inclusion and opportunities for conversation. Asheville, N.C.’s coffee shops in particular have been at the forefront of local social issues and provide a means of engaging the community without having to actively recruit an audience.

The concept of œCoffee for Champions  is to create a sustained awareness of Buncombe County Special Olympics, while also generating customers for our local business partners.  Rather than asking for money directly, we’re asking area coffee purveyors to donate one cent per cup of coffee sold throughout August.  We set the contribution level low to make the partnership attainable to coffee purveyors of all scales, and to demonstrate how powerful œmicro scale  crowdsourcing can be. From a nuts and bolts perspective, we’re estimating about $5 per day in contributions from each partner.

 œCoffee for Champions  Creates New Support for Special Olympics
Vortex Doughnuts in Asheville, N.C., is a proud supporter of the Coffee for Champions program.

Our Buncombe County Special Olympics is a œfranchise  of Special Olympics North Carolina, which provides administrative support and access to the program structure. Locally, we are required to self-fund through fundraising. We serve athletes ranging in age from 2 to 50+ through a variety of year-round athletic programs.  We don’t charge our athletes for participation, ensuring that we never turn anyone away.

Coffee for Champions is as much about community as it is fundraising.  Special Olympics often gets relegated to the margins of society.  Through caffeine-induced moments of lucidity, we hope show our athletes represent the entire community through sport. Their accomplishments, which push the limits of individual abilities, need the support of a cheering fan base.

 œCoffee for Champions  Creates New Support for Special Olympics
Le Bon Cafe in Asheville, N.C., proudly donates proceeds from every cup of coffee sold throughout the month of August to Coffee for Champions.

Coffee for Champions caught on quickly through the help of a local food writer, Stu Helm. Stu initially helped us sound the horn for partners and we’ve been picking up momentum ever since.  Without the quick backing and networking support of the local coffee community, we would still be struggling to gain traction.  We’ve enlisted the support of 15  locations throughout Asheville and we are actively recruiting more.

Social media will enable us to highlight our partners’ artisanal coffee products while also allowing people to identify with our athletes through mainstream community experiences.  Participating business will be identified on our website and will be given stickers with our logo to display in house.

For more information, go to  https://coffeeforchampions.wordpress.com.




Josh O’Conner is an urban/land use planner with a passion for food, bicycles, farms, and the outdoors. By day he works as a recreation manager multitasking between planning for active transportation, urban agriculture, programming for individuals with intellectual disabilities, and trying to remember where he left his cup of coffee. He occasionally satiates his fantasy of being a famous writer with freelance work and can be reached at @kalepiracy or @joshoconner on Twitter or e-mailed at  josh.oconner@gmail.com.

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