Special Olympics Texas bringing state games to Lake Travis area in February
Light a torch and cue the music because the Special Olympics Texas state games are coming to the Lake Travis area Feb. 18-20. The games will include volleyball, powerlifting and floorball, and between 800 to 1,200 athletes from across the state are expected to participate.
The Special Olympics’ mission is to provide year-round sports training and athletic competition for children and adults with intellectual disabilities. Tim Martin, the CEO and president of Special Olympics Texas, said this will be the first major event held by his organization since the pandemic started. The games will include not only athletic events but also an opening ceremony and a victory dance.
The Bee Cave and Lakeway city councils each approved spending $100,000 to help pay for lodging for the athletes and advertising for the event. The funding comes from each city’s hotel occupancy tax, which is intended to pay for programming that will bring people from out of town to stay in local hotels. Martin said he expects the event will book out most of the hotels in both cities since 90% of participants and their spectators will come from out of the area.
Martin said the games are a community-wide event, bringing together athletes, families, coaches, spectators and volunteers. A minimum of 550 volunteers will be needed to pull off the games, helping with jobs from scorekeeping to registration to assisting out-of-town visitors with finding their way around. More information about volunteer opportunities can be found online at sotx.org.
“The games are about having a winter experience but it is really about being involved in your community,” Martin told the Lakeway City Council on Nov 1. “We caution you: the Special Olympics is addictive. When you bring it around you’ll want to do it every year.”
Marie Lowman, a member of the Special Olympics Texas Resource Board and a parent of a Special Olympics athlete, said the Lake Travis area is the perfect place to host the state games. Lowman lives in Bee Cave and used to serve on the City Council.
“Bee Cave and Lakeway are both situated perfectly for an event of this type, meaning that we have such incredible community support for Special Olympics and its mission and its charter, and the timing just seemed right to bring an event of this kind and this stature to the area.”
Lowman said that the Special Olympics hope to return to the area for a few years in a row, and that with hotel stays and visitors eating and shopping, the event should have a positive economic impact on both towns. She also said the event goes beyond sports, providing health care to the athletes. Special Olympics Texas will be working with businesses in the community to provide those medical services as well as food and transportation, she said.
Martin said that Special Olympics Texas also hopes to inspire growth of its Unified Champion Schools program in the area. Through the program, student athletes with and without disabilities compete together and form meaningful relationships, he said. Bee Cave and Lakeway have supported Special Olympics activities in the past by lending the use of facilities, and Martin said he feels the community is ready for Unified Champion Schools to grow. Over 600 schools across the state participate, he said.
Lowman said her favorite part of the games is watching the athletes, who range in age from 10 to 80.
“I just can’t wait to see the athletes in their element,” she said. “My most favorite thing in the whole world is watching someone do what they love and once you see a Special Olympics event and athlete, there’s no turning back. You’re all in. It’s pretty incredible.”