Lake Julian Festival of Lights

Festival of Lights Image 2 (Happy Holidays)


Western North Carolina Tradition Benefits Buncombe County Special Olympics

Lake Julian Festival of Lights will once again brighten local holidays as it enters its eighteenth year of operation. The annual light show has become a local winter holiday staple offering an inexpensive and accessible family-oriented experience. Lake Julian Festival of Lights thrives from its connection to the community; 20% of proceeds are donated to Buncombe County Special Olympics, while the remaining income is reinvested to enhance the festival for the following year.

The light show will open with the popular Lights by the Lake Foot Tour on December 1, from 5:30pm – 9pm. Admission for the walking tour is only $5 per adult. Children under 16 are admitted free with a paying adult. Guests are invited to experience the lights through a memorable and immersive experience by leaving their cars behind and taking a leisurely stroll through thousands of bright, twinkling holiday lights. Visitors can wind their way to the center of the park where they will find games, crafts with LEAF’s Easel Rider Artists, s’mores, are more. Santa will even be on hand for photos. Parking for the foot tour will be at Family of Faith Fellowship Church.

Lake Julian Festival of Lights will open to cars on December 2 and run through December 23, operating nightly from 6pm – 9pm for a thrilling visual experience. The drive circling the park becomes a magical journey through tunnels of dazzling, animated, and stationary light displays. Visitors are invited to watch lights twinkle over the lake while listening to their favorite holiday music as the sounds transform the show into a magical holiday journey. The festival’s official radio sponsor has multiple holiday stations available to stream from the free iHeartRadio app.

Vehicle entry for Festival of Lights is $10 per passenger vehicle and $20 for large vans, motor coaches, and buses.  Advance tickets may be purchased for $8 per passenger vehicle and $14 for large vans, motor coaches, and buses online at Iwanna has joined as a sponsor this year and will provide a commemorative program for each guest with Festival of Lights trivia, holiday history, and information for staying healthy during the winter months.


Lake Julian Festival of Lights is presented by Buncombe County Recreation Services.  Businesses interested in partnering with this time treasured event are encouraged to contact Buncombe County Recreation Services for sponsorship information.

Lake Julian Park is located at 406 Overlook Extension in Arden, just off of Long Shoals Road.


Special Olympics North Carolina Fall Tournament

BCSO Fall Games (5)

Athletes representing the Buncombe County Special Olympics Bulldogs ended the 2018 season with a third place finish in their division at the Special Olympics North Carolina Fall Tournament in Charlotte. Two individual skills athletes also competed with David Lunsford taking first place and Sean Griffin placing fourth in their respective divisions.


An opening ceremony at Bojangles’ Coliseum included the Law Enforcement Torch Run, lighting of a cauldron, and a parade of athletes, similar to the modern Olympic Games. With more than 1,000 athletes from across the state, it was the second largest state-level competition of the year. Sports included six disciplines: basketball, bocce, golf, roller skating, soccer, and tennis.


“The Fall Tournament was a great platform for our athletes to show off how hard they have worked this season,” said Karla Furnari of Buncombe County Recreation Services, who is also a Buncombe County Special Olympics coach and Local Coordinator. “The Special Olympics athlete’s oath is, ‘Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.’ Our primary goal is to build confidence, have fun, and share the experience and friendship with families, supporters, and volunteers. In addition to the competitions, ceremonies, and awards, there was also a dance held on Saturday night that the athletes loved.”


Special Olympics was founded by Eunice Kennedy in 1968 and celebrates 50 years of changing attitudes about the talents of people with intellectual disabilities in 2018. Buncombe County Special Olympics provides year-round sports training and athletic competition for youth and adults. Sports include alpine skiing and snowboarding, aquatics, athletics, basketball, bocce, bowling, cheerleading, gymnastics, powerlifting, and soccer. The organization also recently started offering the Adaptive Athlete Program in a partnership with South Slope CrossFit and Buncombe County Recreation Services.


Buncombe County Special Olympics is made possible through funding from donors and support from Buncombe County Government. Festival of Lights, held December 1-23 at Lake Julian Park, is the organization’s largest fundraiser of the year. To donate or volunteer, visit

South Slope CrossFit Adaptive Athlete Program

Buncombe County Recreation Services, Special Olympics of Buncombe County, and South Slope CrossFit today announced a partnership to offer free programs each Wednesday at 3:00 p.m. for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Classes are open to the public and participants do not need to be Special Olympics athletes. The Adaptive Athlete Program features inclusionary workouts tailored to develop strength, mobility, and body awareness through functional movement.

“CrossFit, interval training, and fitness in general has seen huge jumps in participation over the past several years,” said Karla Furnari of Buncombe County Recreation Services. “We want to ensure every member of our community has an open door to a supportive and safe training environment to help them thrive the best they can. There should be no barrier to entry for exercise and wellness.”

Coaches have participated in hands-on courses to learn inclusive techniques for athletes with intellectual and developmental disabilities, including specific strategies for adapting individual movements and entire workouts. Each workout includes a warm-up and cool down with about 40 minutes of a great total body workout – all alongside members of a like-minded community. “Our Adaptive CrossFit program is designed to improve the functional capacity of our athletes inside and outside of the gym regardless of skill level, ability, or adaptation. We are thrilled to be able to provide this course in a fun, safe, and supportive environment to adapt athletes across the county, ” said Julie Hansell, South Slope CrossFit’s Head Adaptive Coach.

“Our ultimate goal is to prepare athletes for everyday life,” said Furnari, who is also a Special Olympics coach. “What we practice in class – squatting, picking things up, pulling things close – are designed to help foster independence in a safe space. When you’re dealing with a limitation, it’s easy for others to write off that you can’t do hard things. Training in a room of people with similar challenges helps everyone understand their potential.”

“It is our belief that every single person is an athlete, whether they realize it or not. It is our mission to help every person who walks through our door tap into their athletic potential, no matter who they are or what their perceived limitations might be. With these values in mind, we started the Adaptive Program in order to provide an environment with highly trained staff where people with various disabilities can grow and develop in ways they might not have thought was possible,” Says South Slope CrossFit Co-Owner, Scott Mirkin.

Workouts take place at South Slope CrossFit located at 217 Coxe Ave in downtown Asheville each Wednesday from 3:00-4:00 p.m. starting October 17. Reservations are not required, but those who are interested are encouraged to RSVP on Facebook.

Gearing up for Summer Games

Some of our teams have been training and preparing for Summer Games all year. It is almost their time to shine (but we know they shine all the time). Please join us in cheering loudly for our bowling team, cheerleading team, gymnastics team, and our swimming team. If you see them around town then give them a big high five and let them know how great they are going to do. You might even want to do a little dance with them. We do have a donations page setup for our teams (BCSO Store). Please donate if you can to help them travel to states. We can’t run this program without the help of our amazing coaches, volunteers, parents, and this amazing community we are part of!

Let’s Get Ready to Bowl!


Registration is open for our 2017 bowling season.  It seems like it has been a long time, but we are ready to start our bowling season March 18, 2017.

Registration is to be completed online at  Please take time to get familiar with the site.  The training schedule/calendar for each sport is listed there.

Each athlete must complete an Athlete Season Request before starting practice. The request can be located in the “Resource Tab” on the site. It is a simple online form that is submitted electronically after completion. This form is required for every athlete regardless of the other sports they are participating in; it allows us to ensure an accurate headcount and keeps contact information up to date.

The Athlete Participation Form (APF) must be on file with Buncombe County Special Olympics before the athlete can participate. There are no exceptions to this policy. If you are unsure if your is up to date, please email ( or call us (828.250.4265)

The Athlete Code of Conduct is being reintroduced and implemented in all programs.  Each athlete will be requires to review the form and sign or signature of the Guardian/Parent will be accepted.

Athletes must have an adult caregiver/family member on the campus at practice at all times. Coach contact information and practice location will be provided to those who have completed the registration process.

Athlete Spotlight – Danny Bourne


Today’s athlete spotlight focuses on Danny Bourne. Danny doesn’t just play Soccer for Buncombe County Special Olympics, but he takes his roll as an athlete and supporter much further. Danny made reindeer out of tree bark this year to sell in order to raise money for our local program. Danny was able to sell all his reindeer and raised over $200 for the local program. It is dedication like his that help this program succeed.

We asked him a few questions about Special Olympics and here are his answers.

What is your favorite sport or activity with Special Olympics?


Is there a new sport or activity you would like to learn?


What do you like best about Special Olympics?

Hanging out with my friends.

What do you do outside of Special Olympics?

Choir and cooking.

What is one word that describes you?

I am a good man!

Is there anything you want people to know about Special Olympics?

Great place to hang out.

Danny is pictured above with his reindeer on the right. The left picture is of a local bank (First Bank) who bought some of his reindeer and decorated their tree at work with them.

Thank you Danny for your continued support and enthusiastic attitude towards the other athletes and coaches.

#coffee4champs Disney ticket winner announced!

Hannah Moore.png

Throughout the month of August local coffee shops donated a penny per cup of coffee sold to our  program. This campaign not only raised money for Buncombe County Special Olympics, but it helped bring awareness to our athletes and the amount of effort and dedication our athletes show everyday. It is important to them to know they have an entire community behind them.

We asked the community to take pictures at their local participating coffee shops and post a picture with the hashtag #coffee4champs. We randomly drew a name of all the people who submitted pictures and our winner of the Disney Tickets is Hannah Moore. She is excited to attend Disney for the very first time!

Congratulations Hannah! We hope you have a blast! Thank you to everyone who supported Buncombe County Special Olympics just by drinking coffee! Check in during summer 2017 for our next Coffee4Champions campaign.

Young Athletes Program Starts Next Session October 26


The Young Athletes Program (YAP) is an inclusive program for children ages 2-7 with or without intellectual disabilities. The focus is on fun activities that are important to mental and physical growth. Activities will aid in the development of social and motor skills for children within this age range. This program also helps in bridging the gap between children with and without intellectual disabilities by integrating them at a young age and teaching acceptance for all.

The YAP curriculum provides an outlet for physical activity and socialization in a format that engages strengths, differences, inclusion, and collective accomplishment. Unlike many similar programs, YAP is offered free of charge to all participants.

Fall 2016 YAP will be held on Wednesday evenings from 6:15pm – 7:15pm starting on October 26th. The will be held at the Jewish Community Center located at 236 Charlotte Street, Asheville 28801. The room will be held in the gym on the second floor and there is an elevator available for use.

In order to participate, register your athlete online with our athlete registration form and complete Young Athlete Registration Form (you can bring it to your first session or e-mail it to  Call 828.250.4265 or e-mail for more information.

Soccer Team Preps for Soccer Invitational


The Buncombe County Special Olympics Soccer team has been practicing and preparing to take on opponents from neighboring counties since the soccer season opened. The time has finally come to put their skills in the spotlight. On Sunday, October 16,2016 soccer teams from the surrounding counties will participate in a round robin style invitational at the 2016 Buncombe County Special Olympics Soccer Showdown.The Showdown will take place at the Buncombe County Sports Park from 2pm until 5pm.


If you know of a Special Olympics local program that interested in participating or if you are interested in volunteering or spectate, check out the Facebook event.

Our athletes are excited about hosting their friends from around the regional and enjoying an afternoon of socialization and competition.

Special Olympics to Benefit from Admissions to Buncombe County Pools


Buncombe County Special Olympics Dolphins Aquatics team at the 2016 Special Olympics North Carolina Summer Games

Beat the Heat!  Visit any one of the five Buncombe County Recreation Services outdoor pools on Friday, August 5, 2016 and support Buncombe County Special Olympics.

Chill out in the cool, blue waters of a swimming pool near you.  Admission is only $3.00 per person and all proceeds from Friday’s visits will be donated to Buncombe County Special Olympics.  Swim Club Management Group, the management company for the County pools has made this generous opportunity possible.

Swim Club Management Group has been an avid supporter of the Buncombe County Special Olympics aquatics team, the Dolphins, as they prepared for Summer Games earlier this year in High Point, NC.  Swim Club Management Group provided the Dolphins with new uniforms this year and has created space for them to sell ice cream throughout the summer as a fundraiser at the Erwin pool.

Friday’s event will support the entire Buncombe County Special Olympics program, which offers all of its programming at no cost to its athletes.  Buncombe County Special Olympics is volunteer run and donation driven.  Support of partners such as Swim Club Management Group is critical in creating opportunities that allow individuals with intellectual disabilities to understand what they can accomplish through athletics and to help the community at large overcome stereotypes and misconceptions about those with intellectual disabilities.

With summer quickly coming to a close, opportunities to enjoy fun in the sun and a refreshing swim end soon at most County pools as the season closes on August 14.

Participating Swimming Pools: Cane Creek, Erwin Community, Hominy Valley, North Buncombe, Owen.  Pool operating hours are 12:00pm – 5:45pm.  Pool location information can be found at

With summer quickly coming to a close, opportunities to enjoy fun in the sun and a refreshing swim end at most County pools on August 14.

For additional information contact Lynn Pegg with Buncombe County Recreation Services (828)250-6707 or