SISD spring games are a win for special needs athletes, volunteers and family


The John Drugan Middle School teams holds up their banner during the kick off parade at the James B Butler Spring Games in April 2024. The team participated in the 400 meter relay. Photo by Alicia Barron,

After spending several weeks in March preparing for the Socorro Independent School District’s spring games for special needs students, relay runner David Serrano felt he needed a bit more time.

“I am nervous because I feel like I have not trained enough but definitely have gotten faster,” said Serrano, 14, who was competing with his team from John Drugan Middle School.

More than 1,000 students competed in SISD’s 36th annual James B. Butler Spring games on April 3. James B. Butler was a former special education teacher and athletic coach at SISD. He launched many programs within the district for athletes with special needs, including starting swimming classes. With his passing in 2007 the district decided to rename the event in honor of his dedication to improve athletic opportunities for special needs students.

Students can compete in a variety of track competitions ranging from the 100 meter wheelchair race to a 400-meter relay. The day starts with a parade where competitors from the district’s middle schools and high schools line up to be cheered on as they enter field.

The excitement around this event comes from students, parents and volunteers. Beltran says,

“The social aspect is huge, because it’s, it’s so you’re going to see it’s a ton of people, ton of family, and then everybody’s so supportive. So you really get to see like the community our district has,” said Jacki Beltran, Special Education teacher at John Drugan Middle School.

During training, Beltran drilled students on how to hand each other the baton after seeing them start off by tossing it over to a teammate. He lined them up in two groups facing each other and had them run a short distance to become more familiar with how to hand off the baton. Next they focused on speed.

“It’s a lot more motivation for them so once we’re starting to train they start really looking forward to it and then when keeping track of their times, they see how they get faster,” Beltran said.

David Serrano stands on the podium after winning his race. With him are, from left, Julia Vera and Diana David Serrano. Photo by Alicia Barron,

David Serrano’s mother Julia Vera said it means a lot for him to be included.

“My son has tried out for other sports for one reason or another, he ends up not wanting to do it. You know, he’s shy or because of his different abilities and this is an opportunity for all of the children to be included.”

Dozens of volunteers and district staff members participated in the Spring Games in order to keep athletes hydrated and safe.

Jorge Saenz, SISD Assistant Director of Special Education said “the way we keep it going is just by having you know, we have committed staff at the campus level, at the district level, … parents again, and the athletes.”

The John Drugan Middle School relay team receives their third place medals.

The John Drugan Middle School relay team receives their third place medals. Photo by Alicia Barron,

The John Drugan team set the goal to beat last years fourth place finish. In hopes to achieve this goal they added new members to the team and a change in order of the relay. On race day the relay team started with David Serrano as the first leg followed by Alain Hernandez, then Saul Torres and Jacob “Max” Jefferson as the anchor. They competed against four other middle schools from across the district. With a third place finish the team wore their medals proudly.

The El Paso School District has a similar spring competition called the Unidos Spring Games. Also each spring, the Area 19 Special Olympics competitions take place where athletes from throughout the city can qualify to advance to competition at the area, state, and national level. For more info on volunteering visit







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