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By Rudy Lopez

I volunteer and donate a lot because helping others keeps me grounded and focused on the things in life that matter.

When I started volunteering at Special Olympics sports competitions in Fort Worth more than ten years ago, I did not have a family member or even close friend who had intellectual disabilities. Ten years later, I have over 45,000 friends with intellectual disabilities from all across the state of Texas. I have come to know the athletes and watch them grow for over a decade. I have seen them win and lose in competitions. I have seen them develop from children to adults. I have seen them get jobs and develop close relationships with friends. I have also seen how Special Olympics effectively utilizes sport to transform lives.

To quote one of my new athlete friends, “Special Olympics makes people strong; it makes people happy!”

Special Olympics is not just for the athletes; it also affects the lives of the families and volunteers. I cannot tell you how many times family members have told me how much Special Olympics means to their family. To have their son, daughter, brother or sister being recognized and appreciated, seeing them engaged in the community and getting healthy and strong – now that is something that is really special!

When they say things are bigger in Texas, they are not kidding. Special Olympics Texas has one of the biggest Special Olympics programs in the country! Speaking of countries, Special Olympics Texas is bigger than the national programs of Great Britain, France, Brazil and Japan! That is what I call Texas-sized!

Special Olympics Texas offers more than 300 events each year in 22 sports across the state for athletes of all ages. In addition to sports, Special Olympics Texas has world-renowned educational and health programs. Our educational programs that foster development and inclusion include the Athlete Leadership Programs; Global Messengers Program; Project Unify – Meet in the Middle; and Spread the Word to End the Word. Our exceptional Healthy Athlete programs includes: Fit Feet; Fun Fitness; Health Promotions; Healthy Hearing; Opening Eyes; and Special Smiles.

Over the past five years, Special Olympics Texas has grown approximately 67 percent, and the objectives in our Strategic Plan have us growing to more than 60,000 athletes within the next five years. To keep pace with this growth and to continue to offer best-in-class programs to our athletes, we need more donors who can provide longer term sustainable revenue.

I am an Olympus Society member because I understand that in addition to volunteering it takes a lot of financial resources to fund our Texas-sized programs. Friends take care of their friends. Long-term sustainable donations will help us take care of our friends, today and tomorrow. I encourage you to “Be a Fan” of Special Olympics Texas and donate generously from your heart with a long term pledge.

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