CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Ask anyone about the Special Olympics the name Alice Fulton-Garza will come up. She's dedicated more than four decades to serving those with intellectual disabilities.
She announced she'll be retiring on Aug. 16. KRIS 6 News sat down with her to talk about the years past as she looks to the years still ahead.
Special Olympics Texas-South Texas Director Alice Fulton-Garza says, it's hard to believe her career is coming to a close,
"It's just been a beautiful time," she said. "The time has flown."
Graza has been with the Special Olympics since 1975 when she first volunteered to be a scorekeeper at its statewide basketball competition. Shortly after she became a certified coach for the Special Olympics coaching teams to the competition, it wasn't until 1983 when Alice and a group of community friends organized the areas first Spring Games hosted at Buc Stadium in Corpus Christi.
According to Garza, "After going to state games, we saw, wow we need to do what they do with all the pageantry."
As the community support grew, so did her love for serving those with intellectual disabilities.
As director for the Special Olympics Texas-South Texas area, she's grown the non-profit organization by leaps and bounds.
And although she receives most of the credit, Garza says success couldn't have happened without the support of staff, volunteers and families.
"I sometimes feel bad that I get all the accolades because truly besides God having a hand in it all, my volunteers in this entire community over all these years have been the ones that made me look good, it wasn't just me," she said.
Garza has grown awareness about those with intellectual disabilities as well as support and participation in Special Olympics.
After serving the area for 44 years, she's decided it's time to enjoy retirement.
Her replacement is no stranger to the Special Olympics. Serita Porter has worked under Garza for years and has been named as her replacement.
She's ready for the task and looks forward to continuing the organization's success.
"I do have some big shoes to fill because Alice has been a presence in the South Texas area for over 40 years," Porter said. "I hope I can make her proud by taking over and bringing new aspects to the area."
For Garza, it'll be her athletes and families she'll miss the most.
Seeing their smiles as they compete in something they love and having a sense of inclusion.
"People don't realize that people with intellectual disabilities are really the same as you and I," Garza says.
Her longtime helper and Special Olympian Robert Katocs is going to miss seeing Garza year after year.
"What I'm going to miss about her is being here with the athletes and helping her out," Katocs said. "And all the events we do volunteering with her."
With her first grandchild on the way, Garza is ready to settle down and focus on her family.
The countless moments, memories, and lasting friendships she's made over the years will be missed, but even though she's moving on, her Special Olympics family will always be close to her heart.
"I was 19 when I volunteered at my first event, and now I'm in my 60's," she said. "So I was like wow, it's really been that long?"
Garza's last day on the job will be Aug. 16.