Special Athletes!

The Gathering Place is proud to announce that they are supporting the Big Bend Independent Special Olympics team!  The team recently came back from El Paso where they competed in the Regional Games Bowling competition.

DSC_0210February 5-8, 2015, the team will be traveling to Austin to attend the State Winter Games.

The Gathering Place is helping with transportation costs and new uniforms.  If you would like to donate to the Gathering Place, you will be helping our special athletes!


My Story

“Wait! Did you say rhino?” “No, I said…” I simply smile and chuckle, as this is an everyday, frequent occurrence. If God did not give me a sense of humor to handle the frustration that comes with being hard of hearing (HoH), then other emotions would tempt to overwhelm me. And rhino? I do not know how that one was heard in the middle of a finance conversation. Funny.

Born hard of hearing and visually impaired, challenges were always a part of life. From wearing giant hearing aides as a child, to patches over one eye to make the other eye see better (I am sure there was logic in the idea, but it did not work). As I moved on to high school, the whole handicap thing was embarrassing and I couldn’t hide these monstrous hearing aides and crossing eye very well with my curly hair anymore. So I simply stopped wearing the aides and started with the fashionably 80’s poofy hair. Alright! And it wasn’t too bad, until someone talked to me.

That is exactly where the world stops for a HoH person. It’s a zoom effect. They tune into your face, reading every expression and if they read lips, concentrating on your entire presence to simply understand and participate in this wondrous conversation with you. As we grow older, we adapt, and I did, without the hearing aides. So what if I missed a word here or there. Okay, there was that one time where most unfortunately, I completely misread this poor woman’s face and laughed when I thought she was laughing. She was actually sighing in reaction to her mother’s passing. Oh my goodness! I felt horrible. I did not hear or understand anything in the conversation that resembled someone passing.

Many problems started to surface. My family started noticing increasing incidents and my children started begging for dad to discipline them. Apparently, I did not hear what I thought I heard. Funny. I finally agreed to have my hearing tested again. And this was after not wearing hearing aides for many years. It was a shock to see and ‘hear’ the level of hearing loss I suffered in the years of not taking of myself properly. It was devasting to me.

Sure I was angry with God. I was angry with everyone, because it was not fair. Sadness flooded my heart and I just knew my life was awful. How terrible that I may not be able to hear my grandchildren someday. Or hear my darling husband say ‘I love you!’, when we are old and gray. Then a new harsh realization set in. What if I am deaf AND blind? It was too much to accept, so my eye visits became very regular and I remained stable in that area.

I learned of some resources available to the Deaf and HoH. The Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (DARS) help people like myself to acquire the things they need to be a part of the working community. It is a process that has helped me tremendously, as they were the reason I finally got hearing aides after so many years. And they have served me well for nearly four years and but yet again, I was burdened with news of more hearing loss.

But I have an awesome audiologist that has me very excited about the new technology he wants me to wear. These hearing aides may very well help me to hear sounds and words in songs I have not heard before. This is incredible! Let me add to that. There is actually a device that allows me to remote control the hearing aide focus. If we are talking in a crowded room and I need to hear just your voice, simply click a button. Excellent! I’m thinking Adam Sandler in the movie ‘Click’. Well, sort of. Yay!

And God? I am his number one fan. He forgave my anger and I now understand the beauty of why he made me the way I am.


GOT MY NEW HEARING AIDES TODAY!!!! and yes… I CAN hear incredibly better and more!! I talked to my dear friend on the phone and could actually hear her high pitch voice perfectly clear! I couldn’t help but cry, it is so amazing to hear high frequencies now.  Thank you Jesus!!!!!!! Thank you Jesus!!!!!!! Wait… there’s more:)

I was asked by ‘Good Morning West Texas’ channel 2, to do a news interview about my story and the Deaf Awareness week we are doing next week! !!!!! PRAISE GOD! More people can be reached and helped like I was/am:)) we will be on the news tomorrow morning (May 16). Whoop!!

Check out the news interview with Joyce and I.  http://www.permianbasin360.com/gmwt-main


Deaf Awareness Week

May 19-23, 2014 we are celebrating Deaf Awareness Week.  Our goal is to create awareness for people with hearing impairments.  We want to talk about communicating with a person with a hearing impairments and what help is available for people who have a hearing impairment.

Our schedule for the week will be:

Monday, May 19 from 6-8 pm will be an open house with refreshments and information available. At the Casner Building 301 W Holland in Alpine.

Tuesday, May 20 at 4pm will be storytime at the Alpine Library where Kristine will read a story in ASL Sign Language.

Wednesday, May 21, Rebecca Hernandez will be traveling from El Paso to visit us.  She is a deaf and hard of hearing specialist who has all kinds of new technology to help those with hearing loss.  She will be at the High School transition fair in the morning at Sulross University and the Casner Building at 1:00 for a workshop.  To contact Rebecca Hernandez of DARS Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services… 915-328-8282

Thursday, May 22, we will be talking about how to communicate with the deaf and deaf etiquette.

We hope you will join us to celebrate Deaf Awareness Week!  for more information, contact gatheringplacealpine@gmail.com

Big Bend Special Olympics Team Update

We are off and running… or should I say… off and swimming, dribbling and driving!

Golfing with Layla and Rebecca

Golfing with Layla and Rebecca

Aquatics with Rachel and Rebecca

Aquatics with Rachel and Rebecca

Basketball with Rachel, Rebecca, Layla and Elijah

Basketball with Rachel, Rebecca, Layla and Elijah

A newly formed Special Olympics team is now available for adults in the Big Bend area. The Big Bend Independent Special Olympics Team provides opportunities for young adults with disabilities to continue competing in Special Olympic events after they leave high school. The new team is open to those who are no longer eligible for the ISD team, and also to home schoolers or anyone else who would like to participate.

Athletes are already in training to compete in aquatics, golf and basketball skills.

The aquatics competition will be held at the William Cowan Pool on Sat. April 5 in El Paso. Athletes are currently training at the Sul Ross Pool, Fridays at 5pm.

Special Olympics athletes will also compete in golf. The tournament will be held at the Underwood Golf Course, Sat. April 26, from 9am – 3pm. at Fort Bliss in El Paso. Athletes train on Tuesdays, at 1pm, at the Alpine Country Club.

Athletes will compete in basketball skills, and will be working on 3-on-3, half court matches. The Basketball Individual Skills Competition will be held at the Montwood High School Gym in El Paso.

Special Olympics provides an opportunity for athletes to make friends, stay healthy and learn more about their favorite sports.

Rachel and Becky are two of the participating athletes who are training in the basketball program.

“I’m living my dreams” said Becky. “If I can do it, you can too! I love it! I’ve made new friends,” she said.

“Win State! We can do it,” Rachel said emphatically.

These feelings are not limited to the athletes. Coach Josh Hinojosa loves to see the joy and excitement on athlete’s faces. Coach Steph Bohanna agrees, “I love working with the kids,” she said. “I love their heart and dedication.”

The head of the delegation for the Special Olympic Team is Joyce Page, a local businesswoman who founded The Gathering Place and spear-headed this new effort.

“I hope we provide a lifelong community event,” she said. “We are off to a good start. Our athletes are part of our community and it is heartwarming to see the community of Alpine step up and be a part of the lives of our Special Olympic athletes.

Volunteer coaches for all the events include Jim Hector, Julie Obbink, John Maxwell, Rocky Feliciano, Francisco Atkinson, Josh Hinojosa, Steph Bohanna, Sandra Chambers and many Sul Ross University student athletes.

Sul Ross and the Alpine Country Club were eager to help the new team get started. They provided practice space for athletes and volunteer coaches.

Donations for the new team can be made to Special Olympics FBO, The Big Bend Independent Special Olympics Team.  Drop off, or mail donations to, 301 W. Holland Ave. Alpine Tx. 79830. (Livin My Dreams locked mail box)

To volunteer with the Special Olympics Team, contact Joyce Page at 432-294-4028.


Changes coming to the Gathering Place

The Gathering Place board of directors have decided to re-evaluate the services of the Gathering Place.  We are closing the office located on 7th st in Alpine and trying to assess the needs of people with disabilities and their families in Alpine.  We will still be available to help with referrals and advocacy by appointment.

We are hoping to continue to provide social activities for our consumers by focusing on the upcoming Independent Special Olympics team.  Special Olympics provides not only sporting opportunities, but social gatherings as well for all ages.  If you are interested in Special Olympics, please let us know by responding to this email.  We will let you know when the team is forming.

We will also be focusing on getting a better understanding of the needs of our community.  We want to know how we can serve people with disabilities.  Please come out to our booth at the Big Bend Health Fair on Saturday,  Oct 5 at the Alpine Civic Center where we will be handing out surveys.

In the meantime, University Baptist Church is starting a ministry to the disabled.  If you are interested, please contact Pastor Mark at UBC at 432-294-2165.

Watch for the Livin My Dreams Art Studio and Joyce’s office to be moving to the front of the building where our artists will get more exposure.

Thank you so much for your continued support of the Gathering Place!

Joyce, Mark, Jerry, Bob, Randell and Francie

Attention: Special Olympics Athletes

It looks like our Independent Special Olympics team is ready to get started!!  This will be a team made up of athletes that are not part of the Alpine ISD team… home schoolers, and adults.

An Independent Special Olympics team will include any athletes who meet these qualifications:
To compete in Special Olympics, a person must be at least eight years old. Children at the age of six may begin a training program, but are not able to compete until the age of eight. A person must also be identified by an agency or professional as having one of the following:
Intellectual Disabilities [Mental Retardation].
Closely related development disability, which means having functional limitations in both general learning and in adaptive skills such as recreation, work, independent living, self direction, or self care.
(taken from the website SOTX.org)
Our team will be named “Big Bend Special Olympics” and will be supported by Sul Ross athletes.  Coach Sandra Chambers will be our head coach and students from Sul Ross will be our individual coaches.  We will be starting with bowling this fall and add more sports in the coming seasons.  Eventually, we hope that Sul Ross will be the home of the Big Bend Special Olympic Region serving teams in the Big Bend Area.

First thing we need to do is find our athletes and get them enrolled.  You can access the enrollment forms online at
http://www.sotx.org/docs/forms/athlete-enrollment-form.pdf  or contact Joyce Page at 432-294-4028.  Enrollment does require a physical exam to make sure the athlete is able to participate in sporting events.  We are currently looking for a physician or PA who would be willing to donate thier time for our athlete physicals.

We will have a team meeting on Monday September 23 at 6:00 PM to distribute enrollment forms and to meet the athletes who want to participate.

Sign Language Classes!

signlanguageimageWe are very excited to start offering some fun Sign Language Classes!  Sign Language is a fun language to learn and hopefully you will make a new friend some day when you are able to communicate to a person who is deaf.

If your job keeps you involved with the public, you are bound to run into someone with a hearing impairment sooner or later.  Wouldn’t you like to be able to communicate the basics with them??

The Gathering Place is offering 2 week long sessions of basic sign language vocabulary.  All ages and abilities are welcome to come learn a few basic words.  Come every day, or just when you can – you will pick up a few new words each day.  The sessions are:

Monday – Friday July 1-5, 2013 at 10 am

Monday – Friday August 1-5 at 10 am

$5.00 donation is suggested

Our teacher, Kandra Brazell will also be teaching Sign Language for Odessa College Community Ed in July.  This will also be a basic class, but it will be a 6 week class that meets 2 days a week.  CCUs are available to people who need them for nursing certificates, teaching certificates, etc.  For more information about that class… go to: