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 or call Joyce at 432-294-4028.


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