April 5, 2012
By Tela Mange
Bill Woodhull of Austin has been a Unified Sports partner with his son Alex for the past four years, participating in golf.
The Unified Sports program integrates athletes with and without intellectual disabilities in training and competition programs, as well as social activities. It is the goal of Unified Sports to integrate into community leagues those athletes with intellectual disabilities who, because of their higher skill level, are ready to move themselves from traditional Special Olympics teams into mainstream athletic programs.
“Unified Sports is a wonderful way to get special needs students involved in the community, especially those who are 18 years old and older or in a group home. Being in Unified Sports allows them to still mix with the regular community so they don’t get isolated,” Bill said. “And it allows members of the regular community to give back.”
Bill said the Unified Sports program can help bring families together. “It’s a unique opportunity to build participation in a lifetime sport with your kid, and a chance to get closer. It’s an opportunity to be together and focus on something,” he said.
Alex also participates in Unified Sports activities with his sisters. “It’s great stuff. Like any parent with normal and special needs kids, I’ve seen how my daughters interact with their brother and with the other Special Olympics athletes. It’s made them better human beings,” Bill said.
Bill initially got involved in Special Olympics because he noticed there weren’t many dads involved. The teams Alex was on needed men to help chaperone and coach. The transition to Unified Sports was a natural one.
“It was the right thing to do,” he said. “I wish more parents would get involved. We all tend to take Special Olympics coaches for granted, especially the school coaches. A lot of people assume the school coaches are getting paid extra for their work, but they’re not. We all need to get involved. If you don’t want to coach, at least get involved financially.”
Bill and his wife Cynthia have been loyal and generous donors to SOTX for the past 10 years. They recently started donating online to ease the paperwork burden for them as well as to help lower administrative expenses for the Chapter. (See http://www.sotx.org/donate/ to donate online!)
As a major donor, Bill also spreads the word about SOTX throughout his professional and personal life. He said enjoys the conversations from interested persons when he’s wearing his SOTX shirts and is a great advocate of communicating the impact on children and adults with intellectual disabilities.
As a Legacy Society member, Bill and Cynthia know first-hand the importance of making a bequest gift to SOTX – their legacy will ensure their son and other athletes in Texas will continue to be able to participate in year-round programs for the future.
By donating to Special Olympics Texas, Bill said, contributors help ensure that valuable programs such as Unified Sports can continue to serve the special needs community. “You keep a special needs athlete more involved in the community. The more successful they are in Special Olympics, the more successful they are, all the way around. They become more productive members of society. Like anything else, if the funding runs short, things get cut back. We all need to step up to the plate and help out,” he said.