Brendan West’s life has been anything but “normal” since the day he was born. He was born with Roberts Syndrome, a genetic disorder that causes delayed development of facial features and limbs. Because of this, Brendan was born without arms and uses a wheelchair. He is also missing the corpus callosum, the part of the brain that connects the left and right hemispheres, causing further intellectual delays.
Growing up, people stared at Brendan and whispered about him when he would go out in public with his family. The family felt like they were ostracized while society judged their child for being a little different. Feelings of uncertainty, loneliness and judgement were the norm for the West family. Brendan didn’t have many friends in school and had a hard time getting involved.
Life got a little sweeter for Brendan once he entered junior high. The local Special Olympics Texas coach took notice of him and recruited him to join the program. Coach Jeff Green worked to teach Brendan how to use his feet to play basketball. Starting by placing the ball between Brendan’s feet, Coach Green taught him how to arc the ball and follow through with his shot. With that, Brendan was suddenly making shots from all around the court!
During the last year, Coach Green has been helping Brendan develop more basketball skills. Brendan is learning how to dribble, while continuing to work on maintaining control of the ball. Outside of his time with Coach Green, Brendan continues to practice and develop his basketball skills with his father Ray at home.
“He does every drill you see the other kids doing,” said Ann West, Brendan’s mother. “He can even make a 10 foot shot.”
Through SOTX Brendan’s social life exploded seemingly overnight. He went from having very few friends and little social acceptance, to having a ton of friends and an entire organization that accepts him as he is. Through competing at Special Olympics events, he has made friends from all over the state and has earned the nickname “Beebo”.
“Knowing Brendan is like being famous,” said Ann. “Everyone knows who Beebo is.”
Today, “Beebo” is quite the celebrity. After learning how to use only his feet to play sports, he started to master basketball skills. He’s so good that he has been invited to two basketball ProCamps – one led by Hakeem Olajuwon, a former center for the Houston Rockets, and the other by James Hardin, a current shooting guard for the Rockets.
The confidence Brendan has gained through SOTX has helped him excel in other areas of life. Brendan works at Deer Park Lumber as part of a program offered through Deer Park High School. He assists the staff with pricing, tearing down boxes and shredding papers. He also greets customers as they are coming in and leaving.
When asked what they would say to parents considering getting their child involved with SOTX, Ray and Ann said, “Do it, we wish we would have joined earlier!
Volunteering is a Work of Heart
Carlos Gonzalez finds meaningful tradition in being an SOTX volunteer
December 21, 2016
Traditions are passed down throughout a family for generations to come. Some lose their significance over a while, but others are timeless. Volunteering has become a meaningful tradition for Carlos Gonzalez and his family. It started with Dennis Wyatt – now the sport director for Special Olympics Texas golf – who passed it down to his friend Scott Rasmussen, who then passed it onto Carlos.
Everyone Deserves the Chance to Fly
Becca Tuohy’s life was changed forever when she joined SOTX and learned to play golf
December 14, 2016
Becca Tuohy’s life did not begin as any parent would expect. From the moment she was born, her parents knew that walking was going to be a challenge every day for their daughter due to a birth defect. Discussions of wheelchairs and crutches were held instead of deciding between soccer or ballet. Never in their wildest dreams did they think she would find success as a golfer!
Change the World with Kindness
Clara Edwards’ serendipitous encounter with an SOTX practice led to 25 years as a coach
November 29, 2016
Clara Edwards is living proof of the age-old saying “Life can change in an instant.” One afternoon in the early 1990s, Clara was driving around the neighborhood when she had an encounter that changed her life forever. She was passing the softball fields when she saw a man coaching athletes with intellectual disabilities all by himself. “I thought ‘that’s ridiculous that he’s doing this alone’,” said Clara.