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PROGRESS 2020: Special Angels Rodeo a ‘blessing’ for Orange area

By Van Wade

Orange Leader

 

There is no doubt about it, the Special Angels Rodeo is a special event each year that brings out so many smiles for many Southeast Texas families and their little cowboys and cowgirls.

It is the premier adaptive sports rodeo event in Southeast Texas and Southwest Louisiana. They just had their sixth Special Angels Rodeo back in November at the T2 Arena and Event Center at 3810 Old Peveto Road in Orange.

The event is open to all special needs individuals regardless of age, disability, or county of residence and is completely free for all of the participants and their families.

Each of the events is adaptable to meet almost any need of participants to guarantee the best experience for all involved.

The events are overseen by a physical therapist with “Stable Spirit.”

Not all that participates are kids but it is a tremendous event for parents and their families to kick back and watch their kids.

It’s great that parents, family members and friends can be in the stands like other parents that go to things like rodeo events and little league activities.

The first year, no one was sure what to expect, as the event became a reality for Lue Harris, who was inspired to start the event.

She had a dream of doing something for those with “special” needs. The first year there were about 100 participants and has now grown to close to 300.

The Harris family, who have operated Farmer’s Mercantile for decades and have been involved with the Orange County Sheriff’s Posse Rodeo, were eagerly excited about staging a rodeo.

Dan Harris, Lue’s husband, was pessimistic at first. However, Lue, Jo, their daughter, and Bubba, their son, won Dan over and the dream that became the Special Angels Rodeo was born.

“We started putting the first rodeo together in January, 2014, and it took to November to stage the rodeo,” said Jo Harris. “One of the first things we did was to have a meeting after church one Sunday with a group of people and we talked it over. We decided on some tentative events and figured out we could partner with the Sheriff’s Posse and get under their umbrella and use the arena on Highway 105.”

The first rodeo was a success with 94 entrants and a host of volunteers that were rewarded by seeing those amazing grins on kids who were doing things they never thought they would be able to do.

As soon as the 2014 rodeo was over, work began on the second one in 2015. That rodeo saw an estimated 300 contestants, but due to the generosity of Chad Havens donating the use of the T-2 Arena, they had a tremendous facility that could handle the overflow.

“We want every Special Angel to be able to participate and we do not ‘age out,” said Jo Harris. “We do not care how old someone is. We want them to be able to participate in the rodeo and have fun. We have the arena covered with the mats, so that we can take anyone, no matter what makes them “special”.

The other beauty of the Special Angels Rodeo is that every contestant that is registered is awarded a gold medal. All of them are treated like winners, even if they do nothing but register and walk around looking things over.

The fact that they have come to the rodeo is all that matters to all the volunteers.

Events for the participants includes adaptive barrel racing with therapy horses from Stable Spirit and trailers pulled behind an ATV for wheelchair-bound participants, adaptive bull riding and bronc riding utilizing modified rodeo training aids, and adaptive roping.

Area service and activity organizations that serve the special needs community and sponsoring businesses are also available with information, giveaways and activities for participants and their families.