The 24th annual Special Olympics Texas Winter Games kick off Saturday and runs through Sunday.
Nearly 2,700 people are expected to compete in the statewide bowling, power lifting and volleyball competitions. People as young as 12 with intellectual disabilities can compete. There's no cap on age. Special Olympics Texas even has some athletes into their 70s competing.
Centex Rockets, a bowling team from Georgetown, have been preparing for the statewide games for months, competing in local qualifying events first.
“They work so hard,” said Charlotte Friemel, mom to athlete Jared. “They’re some of the most dedicated people I’ve ever known.”
Jared, 24, has Down syndrome. Since he was 8-years-old, he's been part of Special Olympics along with several other activities such as being a member of the Georgetown Baseball team and working for the Round Rock Express and Reebok.
Once Jared finished school, Friemel started the Centex Rockets to take in overflow athletes from another team that had grown too large. They now have 15 members.
And even though they’re competitive, sportsmanship is like none other in the Special Olympics.
“Whether they get a ribbon or a trophy – they’re rooting for one another,” said Friemel. “They just – they’re loving. It’s great. If you’ve never worked with a Special Olympian or a team, I would suggest you get out there and do it.”
Special Olympics Texas is always looking for volunteers. The more volunteers the organization gets, the more competitions available to the athletes.
Various members of the Centex Rockets will be competing at different times throughout the weekend at Mel’s Lone Star Lanes.
To find out more about this year’s winter games or volunteering, go here.