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Jackson County firefighters, deputies face off for charity
Tug of war raises funds for Extra Special People organization
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Area policemen and firefighters will face off in the age-old test of strength: tug of war.

The two sets of civil servants will pull for bragging rights at the second annual Tug of Love fundraiser. The contest will commence at 10 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 8, at the ESP Jackson County Camp.

The tug-of-war competition will raise funds for Extra Special People Jackson County. The nonprofit organization serves children and young adults with developmental disabilities.

“It’s going to be a really fun day,” ESP Executive Director Laura Whitaker said. “Fun for kids and families to attend as well. We’re going to have food out there and games and opportunities to see our property.”

The competition is open to anyone who would like to register at extraspecialpeople.com. The main draw last year was the battle between the Jackson County Fire Services and the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office.

This year, the Jackson County fire department is expected to return and face hefty competition once again. Jackson County Sheriff Janis Magnum said she is putting a team together to represent her office. But other offices and departments inside and outside of Jackson County are welcome to participate.

“We would like to open it up to any other sheriff’s departments,” Whitaker said. “We’re looking for any fire departments, any police departments, any sheriff’s departments to come and join a team.”

After the Tug-of-War champion is crowned, ESP will reveal its future plans for Jackson County.

For the past 30 years, ESP has served the 13 counties of Northeast Georgia area. They include Banks, Barrow, Clarke, Elbert, Greene, Gwinnett, Jackson, Madison, Morgan, Oconee, Oglethorpe, Putnam and Walton counties.

Six months ago, they purchased property from Wellspring Camps in Jefferson. ESP are working on a strategic plan to develop the new acreage. ESP is currently based out of Watkinsville and has a day camp there.

“We’re excited to see everyone come out to the new Jackson property,” ESP staff member Morgan Sillay said. “A place where we one day hope to have a full functioning overnight camp.”

Whitaker explained the nonprofit’s goal is to build cabins, making it a fully accessible camp for children with developmental disabilities.

“But (it) also (can be) for the local community to rent out, if they would like,” Whitaker said. “So we can have residential camp going along with day camp.”

An overnight camp would provide families the respite they need to take care of their kids.

The goal of ESP is to provide a community and opportunities to developmentally disabled kids that they otherwise would not need.

“Our real mission is to help these individuals not just exist but thrive,” Whitaker said.

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