Watkinsville’s Extra Special People dedicated a gymnasium to founder Martha Wyllie Friday, cutting a symbolic ribbon at the newly renovated building on VFW Drive in a morning ceremony.
Big letters on the gym wall, under sunny windows, proclaim it “Maff’s Gym.”
“Maff” is the name Wyllie got from children who couldn’t quite pronounce “Martha” when Wyllie founded Extra Special People, or ESP, more than 30 years ago, explained ESP executive director Laura Whitaker.
Wyllie died in 2005, but her legacy has lived on with ESP, which began in 1986 as a summer camp that gave children a chance to be together with other children with special needs.
Now it has grown into an organization that serves hundreds of children with special needs and their families year-round with after-school programs, weekend outings and field trips, clubs, and other kinds of help programs -- in addition to an eight-week summer camp.
Friday’s event was ESP’s second ribbon-cutting in less than a year.
Last summer, the group moved into a new building next door to the one that had been home for more than 20 years, allowing workers with Restore Pros of Hull to begin the renovation of the older building into Maff’s Gym, including a new roof.
Suppliers helped with donated or discounted materials, said Restore Pros owner Ross Kesterson.
“There’s really no words to describe what they give to the special-needs community,” Kesterson said.
“I’m very thankful for our history. This year for us is really about belief,” said Whitaker, recalling how she’d originally come to work for ESP and Wyllie as an 18-year-old camp counselor, and what Wyllie had come to mean to her.
“I was one of the many, many people she believed in,” Whitaker said.
The 100 people gathered for the event honored Wyllie’s husband, Peter Wyllie, daughter Jennifer Gilliam and son Scott Wyllie, who helped cut the ceremonial ribbon. Two of ESP’s original campers also joined in for the ribbon-cutting, along with parents, participants and community leaders who’ve supported the group, such as state Rep. Chuck Williams, R-Watkinsville.