The Gathering Place is expanding! We are now located in Nampa, Idaho where we are starting the process of working on a residential community here in Idaho! We have a long way to go, but we will be updating you as we go!
The procedure seemed to be moderately pain free, after the first couple of days with some light sensitivity and dryness to deal with. Rebecca is a trouper and never complains. Her vision has improved slightly from 20/80 to 20/50 and we hope that the procedure will ensure that her vision stays at 20/50 and does not deteriorate any further.
Again, thank you for supporting Rebecca!
Another great competition for the Big Bend Special Olympics Team! The team traveled to El Paso for the El Paso Regional Spring Games to compete in Basketball and Track. There are approximately 2000 athletes in the El Paso Area, many of them showing up for these two sports, so needless to say, they were large competitions. Big Bend Lobos are the only team that travelled from outside of their region.
Three of our athletes participated in the basketball tournament and everyone brought home awards. In Basketball, our team competed in Individual Skills where Layla Delaney received the silver medal, Elijah Bailey and Rebecca Page received golds. Under the direction of Coach Josh Hinojosa, everyone showed much improvement over last year in individual skills. Next year, we hope to be able to compete in the 3-3 team games. We will need more athletes and coaches if we are to accomplish this goal.
It was a hot El Paso day for the Spring Games Regional Athletics (track and field) meet. This is the largest event and is attended by schools and organizations all over the El Paso Area. Cheered on by coaches Crystal Young and Tony Beinhauer, and athlete Thomas Hillery, and parents of the racers, Rachel ran the 400
Meter and blew away the competition, running an excellent race and receiving the gold. Rebecca ran the 100 Meter race. Her heat was close the entire race, but she was determined to pull ahead and win 1st place! She received the gold as well. Everyone did a great job!
Crystal Young, Tony Beinhauer and Josh Hinojosa did a fantastic job coaching the team this year! The athletes, Rebecca, Elijah, Thomas and Rachel, made amazing progress as they practiced weekly over the last few months. Crystal and Tony both have a family member who has an intellectual disability, so they have big hearts for our athletes. Josh will be an amazing athletic coach someday. The team gives a big shout out to our coaches!
Under the direction of our Fundraising genius, Crystal, the team held a successful raffle to raise money to travel to El Paso for Spring Games. Next, we plan to raise money for uniforms and equipment. The team has competed in t-shirts for two years and hopes to have real uniforms this coming season.
The Big Bend Independent Team is currently planning for our second year of bowling in the Fall. Bowling is our most popular sport and is coached by our awesome coaches Crystal and Tony. Again, we ask for your help to make it possible for us to succeed. Independent teams are not connected to a school or organization, so they must raise all their own support and find all their own volunteers. Special Olympics is organized so that the athletes and their families do not have financial barriers or time barriers to participate. This means that the Big Bend Independent Special Olympics Team needs you, our community to help them to continue. They are looking for new coaches so that they can expand our program and add more sports. Volunteers are always needed for providing transportation, and helping with other tasks. They welcome new athletes with intellectual disabilities as well as unified players without disabilities at all levels and ages. Please contact Joyce, the Head of Delegation at 432-294-4028 or stop by the Casner Building Manager’s office to get more information.
About the Gathering Place:
The main purpose of the Gathering Place is to outreach, educate and advocate for vulnerable adults and children, and their families in the Big Bend Area. We specialize in people with disabilities (intellectual and physical) which includes children and adults. We are unable to support mental health disabilities at this time. Our organization is not only for people with disabilities, but run by them on a volunteer basis. Disabilities represented on our board are: hearing impairment, Cerebral Palsy, Spina Bifida, Lou Gehrigs Disease, and Down syndrome. Our goal is to support vulnerable people to advocate for themselves and support each other. We provide 3 core services: Information and Referral, Advocacy, and Peer Support.
Our board is currently made up of 7 members. 6 out of 7 have a disability (our quota is 50% of our board has a disability). Many of our board members have been struggling with health issues, so we are looking for some new board members to help out.
Joyce Page, and Randell Resneder are the board members who provide the most information, referral and advocacy services. We do not provide any direct care, but we can support families or individuals to find the services they need. This also includes, but is not limited to serving on local and regional committees to help the community at large.
Peer support is generally provided through support organizations such as Special Olympics or Big Bend Down Syndrome Association. We provide some administrative and fundraising support to both of these groups. We also have a social group called Amazing Amigos for families and individuals with disabilities.
The need for our services has continued to be minimal. We have been privileged to continue to help a few people who need information about services, and to advocate for some adults with disabilities but the demand continues to be low. In 2013, we decided there was not enough demand for an actual staffed location, so we gave up our “center”. We have continued to put most of our effort and man power into supporting Special Olympics and the Benevolence Fund.
Big Bend Independent Special Olympics Team is now into its second year. They have 5 active athletes and several others who have expressed interest, but do not show up. The 5 athletes who have participated have enjoyed it immensely. They have 4 Class A volunteers who are certified coaches. Due to lack of interest from athletes, families and volunteers, they are keeping a minimum schedule of events and activities. Learning all the procedures related to Special Olympics Texas has kept the volunteers busy. The team has done minimal fundraising due to the rigid SOTX rules related to team fundraising.
The Gathering Place board has agreed to help with fundraising for the “special athletes” who make up the Big Bend Independent Special Olympics Team. We have paid mainly for travel expenses to train coaches in El Paso, attend competitions in El Paso and to get equipment for our athletes. We have kept records of income and expenses for the special athletes.
We met the Special Olympics team in Ft Stockton and learned about the way they are operating. They are serving people with disabilities of all ages as an independent team just like BBISO. They are taking donations for their “special athletes” and using the money for their team without sending anything to Special Olympics Texas. This keeps all the donation money local. They also have the support of their schools and have free use of buses, drivers and donated gas! BBISO would like to get to that point if possible. They have contacted the last school superintendent about getting the kids involved, but we just heard that we have a new superintendent.
Another group we have been affiliated with us the Big Bend Down Syndrome Association which has not been active for a couple of years. They had a meeting last December with four families from Alpine represented. We hope to see the group continue to grow.
Ginger Hillary has continued to work with St. James Episcopal church to put on dances for our social group, the Amazing Amigos.
We set up the Benevolence fund originally for Eddie Leyva. This last November, we took donations for the benevolence fund for Rebecca’s eye surgery. We raised about $4000. total for her eye surgery. Anyone with a disability, who has a need, can request that the Gathering Place help them with fundraising. The request has to be brought to the board and fit criteria.
Transportation is one of our biggest needs in the area. People with disabilities just can not get out especially in the bad weather. Most of them walk where they need to go. We have had to advocate for them at TRAX several times because TRAX has been hard to work with when requesting “public transportation”. I believe we would be able to recruit more athletes for Special Olympics and more attendees to events if we had transportation. Bob Schwartz of the Transportation Department had mentioned a grant for rural areas for transportation. I think now that we have our 501-3C, I would like to look into this grant. Joyce has recently been asked to participate in a Far West Texas/El Paso Regional Transportation Coordination Committee (WTEP) for public transportation coordination planning.
What are our needs?
Peer Support Needs: Social Event coordinator.
Over the last few years, the movement in society has been to integrate people with disabilities with people without disabilities, starting with the school children. This has been a positive step toward acceptance of people with disabilities, however, people with disabilities still have needs that can not be met in the regular community. Many relationships between disabled and non-disabled made in schools or in the community are based on benevolence. Well-meaning people befriend those with disabilities, but the relationships that result are not always real bonds of friendship.
Parents of children and adult children with disabilities greatly benefit from peer support as well. Coming together to share common successes and frustrations can be very healthy.
One of the goals of Peer Support is to facilitate opportunities for friendships to develop among people with disabilities. Many of the adults with disabilities who live in our area are isolated and lonely. They may have jobs and family activities, but they do not know the joy of a good friend to go to the movies with. Unfortunately, these people often are unable to initiate these social events, so we need to help them by planning and facilitating the events for them. Just planning a movie night and transportation is beyond their ability.
Special Olympics has attempted to meet this need. It is a good program, but we could do more. Unfortunately, many people with disabilities and their families in this area do not know or understand the need for peer support.
Needs for Special Olympics: Class A Volunteers needed which includes: Fundraising man power, transportation to practices for our athletes, coaches and assistants, administrative tasks such as finances. Continued funding for transportation to competitions, bowling practices, uniforms and equipment.
Transportation Needs: Transportation coordinator. Direct transportation of people to our events. Grant writer to be able to get our own transportation.
Marketing Needs: In April of 2013, we participated in a Disability Awareness Week. We did a major push in advertising and community awareness events. We would like to do this again but we do not have the man power.
The Avalanche has been terrific at covering our events. We need to continue to get the word out this way.
Special Athletes in Alpine are gearing up to travel to El Paso for Spring Games. They will be competing in basketball, track and golf. The Gathering Place is selling raffle tickets for $10.00 to raise money to help the athletes travel to El Paso.
The prizes for the raffle are:
1. A Mini iPad
2. A wreathe of your own choice of decorations
3. A beautiful painting of Big Bend
To buy a ticket, contact one of our athletes or coaches
Thanks for supporting people with disabilities!
Smiles, that’s what it is about.
Living with a disability can be hard. Grief, stress and other factors can be difficult on families of a person with disability leading to depression, guilt and isolation. Without a good support system, families suffer alone, especially as the person with a disability ages.
The Gathering Place of the Big Bend has been working to reach people with disabilities and their families for several years. The fiercely independent West Texas culture seems to encourage isolation in families with disabilities. Many families here seem to feel the need to bear the burden alone. They have no need for “support groups”.
Last night, St. James Episcopal church, led by Ginger Hillery, blessed the community by once again reaching out to the disabled community and their families. Some of the parents were able to drop off their adult children so that both the parents and the adult children are able to have a night out alone. The adults with disabilities need to have a place where parents aren’t hovering, and the parents need a break from the 24 hour responsibility of parenting a person with a disability. There were many smiles and much laughter.
Joyce Holman Page, founder of the Gathering Place of the Big Bend is passionate about building a community of family and friends who can work together to provide outlets like this. She comments that if you want this kind of community, you have to go outside of Alpine to find it. She and her daughter travel annually to National conferences to experience this kind of support. Cheyenne, mother of two sons with autism recently experienced this kind of support on a cruise for families with autism. Sharing experiences with others who are dealing with disabilities is extremely encouraging. Planning events for people with disabilities that meet their needs brings smiles to the faces of those people who are usually forgotten.
Last year, some parents began working to build a Special Olympics team for people with intellectual disabilities. It has been slow, but there are now 6 athletes participating in a few sports. Special Olympics can be another part of the community that supports families and individuals with intellectual disabilities. Not only are the athletes involved in a healthy activity, but there is camaraderie and time to socialize with new friends. When the team is recognized by the local community such as being involved in parades, or written up in the newspaper, the athletes become part of the larger community as well. More smiles every time someone says Hey, I saw you in the paper! You are famous!
If you know of a family who has a person with a disability, please encourage them to get involved with the Gathering Place community. If you would like to become a part of the community that supports people with disabilities, please contact us or follow us on http://www.facebook.com/gatheringplacealpine or call Joyce at 432-294-4028.