The 12th Annual Navasota ISD Special Olympics Invitational Tournament was held Tuesday afternoon where more than 460 volunteers and participants gathered to compete in an athletics event for students in special education programs.
The Special Olympics event is 100% donor funded and students have participated in several events at Rattler Stadium in Navasota. Each student competes for a first, second or third place medal.
Participating schools included students and volunteers from Anderson-Shiro, Brenham, Iola, Montgomery, North Zulch, Richards and Sealy districts as well as the host Navasota.
Jeane Boyett, director of the Grimes County Special Education Cooperative, said that after being unable to hold the event for the past two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, students and volunteers were ready to be back in the field.
“This is my fourth year at this event and I think it’s in the kids’ faces when you look at them and see their excitement,” she said of the main focus of the event. ‘event. “They are so happy to be here and we have had overwhelming support from the community and our schools. When you see this kid having fun and you see his smile while he competes, it’s very special.
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Lauren Puente, special education coordinator for the Grimes County Special Education Cooperative, organized the event and said the students were more than happy to participate.
“The big takeaway is that these kids are super excited and so happy, and so it’s worth coordinating the organization of the event,” she said. “The job we work in is about children’s stuff, so it’s just a reminder that with all the other stressors that come up in day-to-day work… it’s about kids having fun and to have a place where they fit in and belong.
Each student has a coach, and they train and compete with other young athletes and Special Olympics athletes in runs and walks, and softball and tennis ball throwing events, among others, Puente said.
“Sometimes when you are planning an event it is difficult to get volunteers, but for this it was very easy to get volunteers,” she said. “There was a great overwhelming response and it felt like that was what we had to do this year.”
David Dobyanski is currently a volunteer and the father of Navasota High School alumnus, David Jr. He has been a Special Olympics volunteer for 14 years.
“I was [instrumental] to get Special Olympics started here,” Dobyanski said. “This event is important because these children need this inclusion that they don’t often get, I have always been their spokesperson. Many of these children cannot speak, and my philosophy is that I speak for them. I think the volunteers enjoy it as much as the children, you can see the smiles on their faces and they are all happy to be here.
David Jr. competed as a former athlete in the 25-meter assisted walk and softball throw. Dobyanski said his son enjoys the camaraderie with other young people. As a volunteer, Dobyanski said he helps find sponsors to put on the event, donates popcorn and helps set up equipment before the event.