SOTX Presents 2016 Volunteer Awards

All recipients will be honored at Fall Classic in Bryan/College Station on Oct. 14.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 29, 2016

AUSTIN – Special Olympics Texas (SOTX) officially announced the recipients of its annual statewide Volunteer Awards on Thursday. The non-profit organization presented five awards for different volunteer categories. Renae Carswell (Lewisville) was crowned its Volunteer of the Year award, Bryan Police Department’s Sgt. Jason James (Bryan) was named the Outstanding Volunteer of the Year for Fundraising, Laurie Martin (Saint Jo) received the award for Trainer of the Year, Jim Domer (Lewisville) earned Unified Partner of the Year accolades and Rob, Lori, Kyle and Ryan Mehnert (Carrollton) were dubbed Family of the Year. 

All honorees will be formally recognized at an awards ceremony on Friday, Oct. 14 in Bryan/College Station during the SOTX Fall Classic statewide competition. 

Volunteer of the Year – Renae Carswell (Lewisville)
Carswell has been involved with SOTX since 1993 when her son joined the program. Since then she has been a coach, chaperone, banquet chair, fundraiser, secretary and more. She works tirelessly to make sure that all of the athletes, parents, coaches and volunteers are fully informed with everything they need to know. She is also certified to coach eight sports and coordinates 3 state games every year. She goes above and beyond to make sure that everything that needs to be done gets done. 

Outstanding Volunteer of the Year for Fundraising – Sgt. Jason James (Bryan)
James has been a Law Enforcement Torch Run member since 2000 and has become a pioneer when it comes to hosting Tip A Cop fundraisers. During one of these events, restaurants will let local police officers come in to serve patrons and allows them to collect tip money, which all gets donated to Special Olympics Texas at the end of the shift.

These fundraisers are typically one night, but through James’ passion, leadership and dedication, he has been able to expand the fundraiser at the College Station Texas Roadhouse location to a three-night occasion, which generates more funds to support SOTX athletes in the area. By going to a three-night event, James and his fellow LETR members and officers raised more than $20,000 in donations at one location, which is more than three times the statewide average. 

Family of the Year – Rob, Lori, Kyle and Ryan Mehnert (Carrollton)
The Mehnert family started their journey with SOTX when the Carrollton-Farmers Branch (C-FB) school district started their program. Ryan was a member of this team until he graduated high school when he continued to compete with the C-FB Cyclones in athletics, basketball, aquatics and bowling. His parents, Rob and Lori, are extremely involved with SOTX. They participate as coaches, unified partners and outreach and fundraising volunteers. Kyle, the Mehnerts other son, is also a SOTX volunteer. He has volunteered on game days, and assisted with practices and fundraisers. In early June Ryan was admitted to the hospital with various health issues. On June 12, he passed away. 

Trainer of the Year – Laurie Martin (Saint Jo)
As a trainer, Martin helps teach other coaches in the area valuable skills that will make them more beneficial to the athletes. She is also a recruiter and seeks to increase the number of coaches in the program to give the athletes as many opportunities as possible. Since the mid-1990s, Martin has been involved with SOTX as a physical therapist. She worked at a school helping disabled children and wanted to lend her skills to SOTX, so that students with intellectual disabilities could have a chance to compete in sports like their traditionally developing peers.  

Unified Partner of the Year – Jim Domer (Lewisville)
For over 30 years Domer has volunteered with SOTX. He has participated as Head of Delegation, a certified coach of nine sports, a unified partner, and has aided in securing facilities for practices. He became a unified partner when the softball team that he was coaching did not have enough players to play. He formed a team with parents and friends, but still needing an extra player, decided to play as well. 



About Special Olympics Texas
Special Olympics Texas (SOTX) is a privately funded non-profit organization that changes lives through the power of sport by encouraging and empowering people with intellectual disabilities, promoting acceptance for all, and fostering communities of understanding and respect. SOTX provides continuing opportunities for more than 55,200 children and adults with intellectual disabilities throughout the Lone Star State to realize their potential, develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage and experience joy and friendship. To learn more, visit or call 800.876.5646. Engage with us on: Twitter @SOTexas;;

Steve Helm- Public Relations Coordinator, Special Olympics Texas
800.876.5646, ext. 2925 (office); 267.421.3911 (cell – media only);