November 8, 2013
By Ramonica Jones
Special Olympics Texas has begun an effort to support military families affected by intellectual disabilities. Due to frequent relocation and deployments, military families do not get as involved in Special Olympics as they could. Often living on base, they may not feel part of the community in which they are assigned. This often will hamper their desire to reach out to find a program.
Additionally, every state runs its program a little differently and that becomes confusing to military families as they transition from one state to the next. Having a program on base will add some stability and familiarity for these families.
This new outreach effort is being made possible thanks to a grant from the Department of Defense. The grant will also support SOTX’s other outreach opportunities to increase family involvement. This summer, SOTX partnered with the Exceptional Family Member Program Office and Child and Youth Services to work with five military bases – Fort Bliss, Fort Hood, Dyess AFB, Sheppard AFB and Joint Base San Antonio (Fort Sam Houston, Randolph AFB and Lackland AFB). The collaboration has already resulted in the founding of two Special Olympics delegations.
"We believe that if we have a group of military families who have kids participating in Special Olympics, the experience for the athletes and their families will be enhanced due to the culture and experiences those families share," said grant consultant, Don Gentry. "It will assist the families in their transitions between posts and during deployments."
Several of the bases have hosted bowling competitions for SOTX athletes. Joint Base San Antonio hosted an equestrian event and a new delegation from the Greater El Paso area competed at an area competition.
Gentry, a SOTX parent and Army veteran, explained, "There are many military kids who don’t get to participate in SO due to numerous moves, etc. This program, we hope, will be an outlet for them and provide greater opportunity for the athletes and their families."
Gentry's daughter, Cory, participates in several sports. He understands firsthand that delegations on base are the basis for family support and inclusion.
"For instance, Cory had her first swimming practice in Richardson the day after I deployed to Iraq. This really helped Patti (Cory's mom) through the adjustment period. I can only think how much better it would have been if there had been others who were either going through the adjustment or shared that experience on the team."
With more than 100,000 active duty soldiers and 20 active bases, Texas has one of the largest military populations in the country.
Courtesy: Working with the Military