“Please let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”
This is the pledge made by every Special Olympics athlete prior to competition and for Debra Gregerson of Copperas Cove, they are words to live by.
“If you do your best, it’s okay. In case I don’t win, I just want to do my best,” Gregerson, 45, said. “Sometimes, I get a ribbon or a medal. I am doing a lot better this year.”
Gregerson and 30 other athletes head to the Special Olympic Texas Winter Games today through Sunday to hopefully bring home the gold and qualify for the world games held later this year in Los Angeles. Gregerson has been bowling with Special Olympics for more than 30 years. She bowls every Saturday at Warrior Lanes on Fort Hood.
“I love bowling because I meet my friends here. I like to see the teams and the volunteers,” Gregerson said.
The social aspect of Special Olympics is a key reason for the athletes to participate, said Noreen Gregerson, Debra’s mother.
“Special Olympics gives the athletes a chance to socialize. They can’t drive or get out to see their friends. Through Special Olympics, they get to get out, socialize and feel normal,” she said.
Noreen Gregerson said that when her daughter was young, she knew something was not right.
“When she was 3 or 4, the doctors hinted that she might be mentally retarded. I was offended. Not my child. She was probably 7 before she had a real diagnosis,” she said. “Debra attended special education classes because she was different. But after the diagnosis, she was moved into more supportive classes.”
Debra Gregerson is borderline mentally retarded, said her mother, who added that she is self-sufficient and functioning but has limitations.
“She cannot stay on task, handle her finances, or do those kinds of things. So, she can’t hold a job,” Noreen Gregerson said. “But, she volunteers at the nursing home and does what she can.”
Linda Dillon, head bowling coach since 1990, traveled Thursday along with three other coaches to Austin. She said the bowling competition has grown 25 percent since 2013’s state winter games.
“Last year, our athletes were spread out over three bowling alleys in Austin. This year it is four. It is very competitive,” Dillon said. “The athletes enjoy it and as they get older, it is easier for them than track and field.”
The area games that involve track and field are held in Waco in April or May.
Special Olympics operates based on financial donations and volunteers who drive the organization serving as coaches, buddies, fundraisers, and assistants in various areas. To support the local Killeen-Cove-Hood Phantoms, call the Special Olympics office at 254-690-4153.