What a confusing and topsy-turvy time for graduating seniors his year – all because of the traumatic changes that have occurred due to the pandemic called COVID-19. Some sports were ended before their completed seasons (like boys basketball, boys and girls soccer, tennis, golf, etc.), while some sports had just gotten underway and were suspended, then canceled (like boys baseball and girls softball), and other spring sports were hardly able to commence (like track and field).

One such senior that is extremely devastated by the absence of sports is Parker Dylan Rentler from Venus High School, his town just located south of Midlothian. He has always been athletic and especially fond of sports of all kinds. He is the 18-year old son of Joe and Melinda Rentler.

Parker most likely received his extreme love of sports from his father Joe, who played Lancaster High School sports in the 70s. For most of his adult life, the elder Rentler has been infatuated with sports – so much so that he has officiated all levels of football and basketball since his graduation in 1973. From pee wee league to the high school ranks, this man has been deeply involved in sports and has passed on his athletic genes to his son.

However, while Parker’s favorite pastime is basketball, he is not your typical high school “baller”. In fact, his family was completely surprised at age 2 1/2, that their son had something wrong with him, but they didn’t know what it was at that time.

Medical and school problems

When Parker started experiencing severe earaches at a very young age, his mother and father became very concerned. When it was time for him to begin speaking, they were totally disappointed when they were advised that he may have some definite learning disabilities. At age 3, he was placed into the Venus school system.

By the time the boy had turned 5, the parents were finally able to take him to a doctor to check out his skills, or lack thereof. However, the doctor felt that Parker was just a little slow, or “behind” as he called the condition. When Parker entered kindergarten, he was placed in a regular class, but he was not able to keep up, and the Venus I.S.D. couldn’t provide any real aid for him at that time.

Mrs. Rentler relays, “Unfortunately, Parker’s first grade experience was not any better. The teachers did not really work with him very much that year. And to make matters worse, they went ahead and passed him on to the second grade. But, at least, at that point they realized that he needed to be placed in the special needs classes.“

Sports to the rescue

So – what do you do as parents when you have a special needs child that is athletic and still wants to try his hand at sports? The answer became clear in Parker’s sixth grade year, as he joyously became involved in the Special Olympics programs in both cities of Venus and Midlothian. During his years of participation in this organization, Parker has competed in sports such as bowling, basketball, and track and field. As he moved ahead to seventh grade, he began to enjoy being a part of the Venus and Midlothian P.A.W.S. sports program. This is the time when he fell in love with the game of basketball.

Parker says, “Basketball is my very favorite sport because it is so much fun! I love it the best because I have more experience in that sport – and I’ve played that game longer than all the others I’ve been a part of.”

There are various chapters of P.A.W.S. all around the State, that partner with “Special Olympics Texas”. These city clubs sponsor all types of sports opportunities to train their “special needs” athletes, to teach them how to become part of a team, and then to encourage them to compete in scheduled events throughout the year.

Mrs. Rentler shares about her son’s high school years. She says, “In Parker’s freshman year he was involved in Speech Class and the Agriculture program (called “Ag”), which he really enjoyed. As a sophomore, Parker was still a part of the Special Olympics sports with both the Venus and Midlothian Paws clubs. He really stepped up his confidence by deciding to try the Venus High School regular sports so he could join some of his buddies as a junior. This was a very busy year of sports for him, as he participated in school football, basketball, and baseball, and then he added tennis with the Special Olympics program.”

His final year in high school

Parker proudly shares, “The highlight of my years at VHS was when I was playing football in my senior year, and I ran all the way for a 42-yard touchdown against Glen Rose. It was so awesome hearing everybody cheering for me. It is something I will never forget.”

This outgoing senior is often accepted and looked at as a class clown, according to his mother. “Parker loves to have fun and make others laugh,” relays Mrs. Rentler. “As a special treat, he also was recognized in the 11th grade as “Student of the Month,” which was a very big deal for him!”

Then, before Parker realized what happened, his senior year was cut short when the virus started and the schools were shut down. He says, “I hate that I didn’t get to finish my last baseball season. And we didn’t have a prom this spring either. Those two things are what I have missed the most.”

Parker’s mom says, “All these changes have been very hard for my son. He is so confused by it all. The Venus graduation date had been set for May 22. After all the COVID-19 drama, it had been changed to July 11. But with the virus lingering on, the graduation has now been reset again for June 13, 2020. The city is sponsoring a “Senior Parade” on the 22nd of May. As a plus, all the seniors have signs in their yards to honor them as well.”

Parker doesn’t have any set plans after graduation as yet, but he is excited that he’s recently started his first job at the local What-A-Burger Restaurant, and he is doing well in his position there. However, in the future he is entertaining the idea of trying the sport of wrestling. (He secretly wants to become a WWE wrestler some day. And that is OK, because this guy dreams BIG dreams.)

In closing, this “special needs” young man is not only “special” in the eyes of his family – but he is admired by his school and his community for his positive outlook on life, his exceptional courage in attempting to play high school sports, and his contagious smile and kindness to others.