February 07, 2017 | Updated: January 29, 2019

SOTX mom Pat Banell says that participating in Special Olympics Texas has been great for her son, Darrin, who’s 24. Darrin has played volleyball for the past three years and is looking forward to participating in additional sports this year, including basketball and track and field.     

“It’s been the most wonderful, empowering thing for my son because this trip right here is his and his alone. He has an older brother and this weekend, the spotlight is only on Darrin. All year long, he waits for this, it’s the biggest thing going for him. Every year, I make sure to clear the board for this weekend to focus on him.”

Banell said she enjoys attending the games because she loves “watching all the people, seeing all the people cheer everyone on. It renews your faith in mankind, quite honestly.”

Among the positives that Darrin has enjoyed through his participation in Special Olympics: He can work with other people much better and he can interact with people in a much better way. He seems to understand the social rules far better from the repetition and the various encounters that he has all the time,” his mom says.

And Darrin’s participation in Special Olympics has made his mom’s life better too.  “Every young person needs an outlet. He needs sports,” Banell says. Sports teaches so many wonderful lessons that help him with his life, with his day-to-day living. My son has autism and this is crucial to hm. It has been a big light in the tunnel.”

Banell’s advice to families who have a special needs child and are hesitant to get involved in Special Olympics? “I couldn’t be more positive. You’ve got to give it a try because this for my son has just been the thing that gives him purpose every year and a focus like none other. It’s fun, always engaging, and is so healthy for him and it’s something that our whole family can get into.”