Youth Leadership Experience Another First for Special Olympics Texas in Conjunction With 2019 Summer Games at Morgan’s Wonderland


San Antonio, Texas – In conjunction with the 2019 Summer Games in San Antonio, Special Olympics Texas (SOTX) will host approximately 150 high school students with and without intellectual disabilities to its first Youth Leadership Experience (YLE), May 3 and 4.

“Our Experience will mirror the YLE that Special Olympics North America developed,” said Alice Keller, SOTX director of inclusive education.  “This will be the first YLE in Texas and one of the first in the nation at the state level.

“Students will participate in a full day of leadership training on Friday, the 3rd.  The following day during the various athletic competitions, they will shadow coaches, staff, key volunteers and officials to witness leadership in action.”

YLE general sessions will be held at the spacious Morgan’s Wonderland Picnic Place, and breakout sessions – “Exploring Leadership,” “Me as a Leader,” “Co-Leadership (Working Together)” and “Leading as a Team” – will take place at pavilions lining the lake in the heart of Morgan’s Wonderland. 

Participants will be drawn from 174 Unified Champions schools statewide where students with intellectual disabilities and partner students join together for leadership training, sports activities and encouraging the entire student body to be inclusive, Keller said.  Hosting the YLE will be 13 students and partners that sit on the SOTX Youth Activation Committee.  The students come from high schools in Pflugerville, Brady, Abilene, Lewisville and Weatherford.

In 1969, SOTX staged its first competition, and in 2019, the 50th Annual Summer Games will be held in San Antonio – Inclusion City USA – for the first time.  The Gordon Hartman Family Foundation is presenting sponsor for the games that will be headquartered at Morgan’s Wonderland, the world’s first theme park designed with special-needs individuals in mind and built for everyone’s enjoyment in an atmosphere of inclusion. 

Moving to a more-centralized location like San Antonio, as well as lowering the eligible age for competition to 8 years old, opens the door for even more athletes to take part than in previous years.  SOTX anticipates that a record 3,000 athletes from all across Texas will compete in athletics (track and field), soccer, cycling, gymnastics and tennis, and the number of coaches, parents, volunteers and spectators should boost participation to more than 10,000. 

Opening ceremonies for the 2019 Summer Games, which are open to the general public, will be held at 7 p.m. Friday, May 3, at Toyota Field, adjacent to Morgan’s Wonderland.  All athletes will parade into the stadium with their teams and will be formally introduced to the crowd before the torch – Flame of Hope – is passed and the cauldron is lit, signifying the official start of the Games. The Guardians of the Flame will be members of Texas law enforcement agencies, and the torch bearers will be athletes from five Texas regions.  

Entities involved in staging the 2019 Summer Games include SOTX, Morgan’s Wonderland, CRIT, the North East Independent School District (NEISD), Spurs Sports and Entertainment/San Antonio FC, and Visit San Antonio.

About Morgan’s Wonderland
Non-profit, award-winning Morgan’s Wonderland theme park, which is completely wheelchair-accessible, was designed with special-needs individuals in mind and built for everyone’s enjoyment.  Next door is ultra-accessible™ Morgan’s Inspiration island splash park.  For more information, visit

Press contact for Special Olympics Texas - Dave Norris, Communications Manager: (512) 835-9873.

Press contact for Morgan's Wonderland - Bob McCullough, Communications Director: (210) 637-3418.

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 58,800 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;;