Five years ago, Travis Gardner was attending a community meeting with his brother, a Special Olympics athlete in Destin, Florida, when he first learned about Marbridge from volunteer Scott Cary. He was blown away by the life the residents lead.
“There are programs back in Florida for my brother, but nothing compares to what Marbridge is doing,” said Gardner, a Mortgage Loan Officer and Marbridge Volunteer.
Gardner started volunteering right away as a partner on the Unified Softball Team. Unified Sports are a branch of the Special Olympics that allow people with and without intellectual disabilities play on the same team. Since starting out with softball, Gardner has branched out to bocce, golf, bowling, and has become a certified track and field coach.
In addition to assisting with the Special Olympics, Gardner also volunteers for field trips to concerts, local fire houses, adventures to Sea World, and the rodeo.
“I have so many memories I could share, but I think my favorite ones are of the Victory Dances at the statewide Special Olympics Games. At the end of the competitions, all of the different teams from around the state get together and have one big celebration. Hundreds of athletes, coaches, and volunteers are out there celebrating everyone’s hard work and victories. I have never seen so many smiles and love in one place,” Gardner said.
Thanks to his upbringing, Gardner has always known volunteering and it reinforces his family values; it brings home the point that “we’re all the same regardless of our abilities”.
Just recently, Gardner and his wife stayed in a Downtown Austin hotel where they ran into a Marbridge resident that was working his off campus job. That resident has been employed at the hotel for 15 years, so Gardner is still surprised that many people in Austin still don’t know about Marbridge. He is hoping to change that. More and more people are pushing to ‘keep things local’ and ‘preserve Austin’. He commented that Marbridge has been a part of Austin’s history for 65 years, it’s part of our city’s history and a blueprint to our future.
“When people ask me ‘What do you do for a living?’ My reply to them is I am an advocate for Special Olympics and Marbridge. I love my job and truly enjoy helping people purchase a home, but being a volunteer is what makes me feel alive,” Gardner commented. “Being a volunteer helps me find balance in this crazy world and my life would not be the same without my awesome Marbridge family in it!”
“There are so many activities at Marbridge, they will find something that fits for you. Even if you’re not a pro, just being there and engaged, is enough!” Gardner added.