DANIEL CLIFTON • PICAYUNE EDITOR
MARBLE FALLS — The Special Olympics has become a family affair for Paulette Morrow’s clan. Her oldest daughter, Kimberly, is in training for the upcoming Mustang Roundup, but her younger daughter, Amber, is right there on the track helping out.
“This has really had a big impact on both of their lives, all of your lives really,” said Paulette Morrow, standing along the Marble Falls Middle School track where the Marble Falls Special Olympians practice. “Amber has decided to become a special education teacher because of helping out with these kids.”
Amber managed to pull herself away from the student-athletes gathered on the track for practice to join her mother.
“Just working with these kids is how I learned I wanted to be a special education teacher,” she said. “It’s so great to watch them and work with them.”
The public can witness the joy of the Special Olympics competitors April 4 with Marble Falls Independent School District’s annual Mustang Roundup at Mustang Stadium. Parking is located about one mile north on Manzano Mile. The opening ceremonies get things rolling about 9:30 a.m.
“We’re very excited about the meet,” said MFISD Special Olympics coach and coordinator Devin Wuest. “We’re expecting about 100 athletes. It’s all our kids have been talking about for several week.”
The event draws student-athletes from six school districts, including Marble Falls.
“It’s been amazing the community support we’ve received,” Wuest said. “I’m so grateful for the community support. I’ve had so many people reach out to me and want to volunteer and help.”
That attitude is something Paulette Morrow noted both at the high school and throughout the community when it came to the Special Olympics and the special-needs students in general. The Morrows moved to MFISD about two years ago, and that type of support wasn’t always as common in other districts and communities. Her daughter Kimberly’s previous school simply put the special-needs students from kindergarten through high school in one building, allowing for little interaction with the rest of the students.
In MFISD, the special-needs students are often included in regular classrooms, though they also get special education instruction as well. That, Morrow said, has made a tremendous impact on her daughter.
“She feels like she belongs there,” she said. “The students really support these kids. Anytime we go anywhere in town with Kimberly, we run into kids who know her, and they say ‘hi’ or talk to her. They treat her like she’s one of their best friends.”
Amber noticed the support the high school student body offers the Special Olympians and other special-needs students as well.
“They feel like they’re part of the school,” she said.
As Amber tries to answer questions, the student-athletes, who are stretching and warming up for practice, call out to her, sometimes addressing her as “coach.” Amber laughs and jogs over, joining the students.
“The entire Special Olympics experience has been great for (Kimberly),” Paulette Morrow said. “She enjoys it so much. It’s helped her become more social, and she’s been around different kids. It’s a great program, and the coaches here are amazing.”
While a majority of the Special Olympics track-and-field events are similar to traditional ones, there are some adjustments made for these athletes as well as some different events. But for the kids, it’s all about the fun and competition.
“They really don’t care if they win or lose,” Paulette Morrow said. “Kimberly and the kids, they know they’re going to get something, and, no matter how they finish, they are so happy and proud. When you watch them on the podium after the meet, it just makes you want to cry.”
But the kids, they are smiling and laughing.
The MFISD Mustang Roundup starts at 9:30 a.m. with field events running 10-11:30 a.m. followed by an hour for lunch. The field events commence at 12:30 p.m.
Contact Wuest at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on the track-and-field meet, the Special Olympics or for volunteer information.