All-Inclusive Parks Open in Harlingen to Benefit Children
HARLINGEN – A young man is taking to the air to show people there is nothing he can’t do, even with a disability.
From the moment he was born, at 24 weeks and 1 pound, 15 ounces, Dominic Torres fought against the odds.
“Of course he wasn’t supposed to survive. They called me several nights that he wasn’t gonna make it, but he turned out to be a little fighter,” Velma Torres, Dominic’s mother, said.
Dominic started using a wheelchair when he was only 5 years old. He has cerebral palsy.
“He used to walk with a walker and he had surgery and it comatose him. And he had a stroke, so it put him in a wheelchair, so it kinda changed our life,” Torres said.
Dominic’s mother said he’s used his fighting spirit to break through and get past society’s stereotypes.
“We go to places and a lot of kids are afraid of him because he’s in a chair, even adults they will stare,” she said.
She never let her son’s wheelchair stop Dominic from doing what he wanted.
“Full of life, you would think his disability…just doesn’t get in his way,” she said.
Dominic played basketball with NBA player Tony Parker, went to Disney World and he recently did something many people don’t think of doing.
He decided to try sky diving. He did have a reason why he chose to do the sport. “Because I cannot walk, I can fly,” he said.
With so many accomplishments and stories to tell, Dominic still couldn’t get one thing off his list.
“We’d go on field trips and I’d usually go with him and him being in a wheelchair, he’s heavy. It’s not like you can pick him up and put him in a chair,” Torres said.
Dominic never felt the breeze in his hair as a park swing swayed back and forth or screamed at the joy of making it go too high.
“Those are things people take for granted, you know anybody can get on a swing,” his mother said.
It wasn’t possible for Dominic until now.
“There are items that both students, who have disabilities and there non-disabled peers, can play with together,” Daniel Garza, the director of special education for the Harlingen Independent Consolidated School District, said.
Garza said they partnered with the city of Harlingen to bring two all-inclusive parks to the city – the Pendleton Park and Victor Park playgrounds.
The Lon C. Hall Park is also an all-inclusive playground.
“In so many arenas students are being excluded because of disabilities, excluded because of intellectual deficits, but this is a place where all students can come together to play and learn so much from each other,” he said.
“It took him 21 years to get on a swing,” Torres said. “He loves it. I mean, he’s getting to swing he’s never been able to swing.”
All three wheelchair, accessible swings are dedicated in Dominic’s honor as part of the Dominic Project by the Harlingen Sunburst Rotary.
“He opened the door for a lot of special needs kids, we’ve done a lot of stuff,” the mother said.
Torres said she and Dominic have really benefited from these parks. She said she can finally swing next to her son.
These parks are the first of their kind in the Rio Grande Valley. They opened the doors for children from all walks of life to be able to come as one and play together.