HARLINGEN — Priscilla Gonzalez took hold of an imitation torch, symbolizing an Olympic flame, and held it up high above her head.
While sporting a purple and gold Greyhound T-Shirt, the San Benito High School student began walking in front of bowling lanes while waving at crowds of people who applauded and gave celebratory shouts.
They were ready to put their months of training to the test.
Special Olympics Texas Rio Grande Valley hosted a bowling competition yesterday at Creasey’s Bowl for Valley students and residents of local adult daycare facilities.
“This is a grand opportunity. It makes me feel so awesome and humbled that I’m able to experience this,” said Ytszel Trinidad Ruiz, a Special Olympics Texas RGV Program Associate. “We’re happy that we’re able to bring them so much excitement with these competitions.”
Participants ranged from 16 years old to 70 who competed in one of three age categories — 16 to 21, 22 to 29 or 30 years and older.
The bowling competition had participants from several school districts including San Benito CISD, Harlingen CISD, Rio Hondo ISD, Lyford CISD, La Feria ISD, Raymondville ISD and Edcouch-Elsa ISD.
From jumping up and down to fist pumping, Harlingen CISD Special Olympics Coordinator Debbie Puente said she loves that the bowling competition makes her students happy.
“They get so lit up that it’s exciting to watch them compete,” Puente said with a smile. “I enjoy seeing their reactions when they knock over pins and win medals.”
At one side of the bowling alley, rows of ramps were lined up in front of wooden lanes.
Throughout the competition, volunteers and supervisors assisted bowling ramp competitors with placing their ball onto the device.
Last month, Special Olympics Texas RGV hosted its annual bowling competition for Valley students ranging from 8 years old to 15.
From traditional sports such as soccer and basketball to power lifting and aquatics, Ruiz said Special Olympics Texas RGV offers about 14 different competitions throughout the year.
“We make all of our events adaptable and modified to allow everyone to compete, so even our athletes that use wheelchairs and walkers are able to participate,” Ruiz said. “They love being able to have the ability to compete and show everyone that they’re able to.”
WHAT IS SPECIAL OLYMPICS TEXAS RGV?
• A nonprofit organization that provides year-round sports trainings and competitions for children and adults with intellectual disabilities from Cameron, Hidalgo, Starr and Willacy counties.
• The organization serves more than 5,000 children and adults.
• Sports offered include — aquatics, athletics, basketball, bocce, bowling, equestrian, flag football, kayaking, power lifting, soccer, softball, table tennis, tennis and volleyball.