North Texas Special Olympics athletes head to national games with special send-off

Dozens of athletes from North Texas will compete in the Special Olympics USA Games in Orlando this year.

An Addison-based charter plane company helps them get there.

Lenard Davis, 36, joined the Special Olympics when he was just 13 years old.

It was instrumental in his development, but it was a suggestion from his coach in 2001 that would change the course of his life.

“I had participated in Special Olympics and my coach told me, it’s a sport that you may like. Indeed, I started playing it and it became very interesting, that’s why I love her so much,” he said.

This interest will later become a passion in its own right.

Davis spent a lot of time working on his craft, which earned him a spot on the Special Olympics bocce ball team.

He said the sense of community he has gained as a result is priceless.

“It makes me feel good to meet people and get to know everyone, and it’s helped me throughout my life,” Davis said.

Daniel Hettinger is another athlete who has invested years in his athleticism.

The 36-year-old started playing basketball at age 10.

His training has sharpened his game, while helping him build team spirit and communication skills.

“I trained hard. I went to a training camp in August. It was pretty good. It helped me train and get in shape,” he said.

They are just two of 68 athletes from North Texas heading to the Special Olympics USA Games.

The Special Olympics organization is forever grateful to the companies that have worked together to make this possible.

“It’s a dream come true for most of our athletes, I would even say the staff involved and the coaches,” said Leah Gambrel, director of development for the North Texas region of Special Olympics. “Going to the USA Games is just an amazing opportunity for our athletes, and getting on those private jets is just a miracle, and we’re so grateful to everyone who made that possible.”

The athletes have a tough competition ahead of them, but they said the party in the hangar on Saturday set the tone for them to bring home the gold medal.

“Yeah, I’m excited! I’m excited. Wow! said Hettinger.

“They help me a lot,” Davis said.

Athletes from across the country will compete in 20 different sports.

More than 300 Texas-based athletes travel to the national games.

Naomi C. Amerson