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Sep. 22—ANDERSON — Organizers of last week's benefit concert billed as the final Little Bit Country Jamboree said Tuesday the event raised at least $50,000 for Special Olympics of Madison County.
Driven in part by Carl Erskine's prominence as a former star pitcher for the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers, the Jamboree has raised nearly $600,000 for Special Olympics over three decades. Due to declining health, Erskine was unable to perform with the Cops & Robbers Band at this year's concert.
Band members and other representatives decided, in agreement with Erskine, to end the jamboree's run at 30 years.
"He felt like 30 is a nice round number, and it just was getting too hard for a lot of the band members," said Bob Helvering, county coordinator for Special Olympics of Madison County. "We just felt like this would be a good way to end it."
Helvering noted that in addition to Erskine being unable to play, another of the band's founding members, John Gunter, died last year. Other band members are also facing various health issues.
Local musician Dan Daugherty, who has participated with the band in all but one Little Bit Country Jamboree, said he and fellow musicians Woody Wright and Martha Green are open to ideas for future Special Olympics fundraising events, but the jamboree's place in the community is assured.
"None of us are averse to doing some kind of event in the future geared toward Special Olympics," Daugherty said, "but Little Bit Country will be impossible to duplicate."
In addition to corporate sponsorships and matching donations, audience members at the concerts over the years have contributed generously when the bucket has been passed. Helvering said that the efforts of Erskine and others have allowed Special Olympics of Madison County to open an endowment that will pay for most of the organization's operating costs over the next few years.
"They had a gourmet sampler and a couple of other good fundraisers and because of that, we had excess money in our account — more than we spent," Helvering said. "We'll still have to do some additional fundraising and we still will be doing those (events), but it will not have the weight or the need to fund our full budget each year."
Follow Andy Knight on Twitter @Andrew_J_Knight, or call 765-640-4809.