As teenagers, Mary Henning and Evelyn Fisher became friends though a local skating program.
“We skated in the Dunkirk Roller Rink,” Henning said. “Evelyn was a far better dance skater than I was.”
Later in life, the women deepened their friendship by volunteering their time and talents to the local Special Olympics Skating Club by coaching the skaters who competed.
“We coached kids with an incredible amount of talent,” Henning said. “They were honest, hardworking and fun to be with. They became like our second family.”
In 2003, Henning, along with other coaches and volunteers, took a group of skaters to Ireland to compete in the Special Olympics World Games for Team USA. Four of the members on her team brought home the gold.
“They were so proud of themselves,” Henning said. “It was wonderful to be a part of giving them that confidence.”
In 2009, Fisher passed away. Prior to her passing, Fisher and Henning discussed doing something to support their passion for working with Special Olympic athletes. As a result, Fisher dedicated a portion of her estate to the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation to support Special Olympic athletes.
Today, the Evelyn D. Fisher, Jim E. and Mary R. Henning Fund provides financial support to the Chautauqua Lakers Golf Club, a training club that is part of the greater Special Olympics organization that offers sports training for individuals with intellectual disabilities.
According to Darla Davison, coordinator and coach of the local team, over 40 athletes, ranging from 12-50 years old meet weekly throughout the summer at Chautauqua Golf Club to work with volunteer coaches on their skills.
“In addition to working on golf skills, we train our athletes on how to play the course,” Davison said. “We have a great group of athletes and volunteers who are highly committed to each other, to the Special Olympics organization and to the sport of golf.”
One of those committed volunteers is Henning.
After the skating club disbanded in 2012 following the closure of the local skating rink, Henning began volunteering with the Chautauqua Lakers.
“I wasn’t much of a golfer when I started,” Henning said. “I always enjoyed Special Olympics and working with the athletes so when my husband (Jim) joined the golf team, I came too.”
Although Jim recently passed, Henning continues to dedicate her time to the Lakers and encourages anyone looking to get involved to do so. A sentiment that is echoed by Davison.
“If you could see the looks on the faces of our athletes, and their pure joy in knowing that our community cares for them, you will never regret it,” Davison said.
The Chautauqua Lakers of Special Olympics New York’s Western team meet weekly at Chautauqua Golf Club from June-August.
For more information, or to volunteer, contact Davison at email@example.com or call (716) 267-3322.
Every gift creates a story. This story was inspired by gifts to The Evelyn D. Fisher, Jim E. and Mary R. Henning Fund.
For 40 years, the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation has worked together with its inspiring donors, selfless volunteers and grateful community organizations to share their stories for enriching the quality of life for all who live here.