What is GUMBO?

GUMBO (Games Uniting Mind and Body) is an interscholastic track and field competition designed for children ages 5 to 18 years of age who have physical or visual disabilities. The events are not unlike those at any other track and field event: races, shot put, discus, etc. What makes GUMBO different is the fact that all of the athletes have a mobility or visual impairment and most compete with leg braces, wheelchairs, or with assistance from a sighted person. The athletes competing in GUMBO are not intellectually disabled. Their eligibility for the competition comes from having a physical disability or visual impairment, and they compete with athletes who have similar or like impairments.

GUMBO strives to support students with disabilities in developing active minds, self-confidence, dignity, discipline, competitive spirit and comradeship. Like other competitive sporting events, GUMBO competitions offer athletes a contest with self, challenging each person to improve performance, strength, speed, endurance and coordination.

What is the Purpose of GUMBO?

The primary purpose of the GUMBO program is to provide athletic/recreation opportunities, for children and youth who have physical or visual disabilities, that promote healthy lifestyles. GUMBO competition is based on a philosophy that endorses participation in sports as having strong therapeutic and social value. Typically, Special Olympics is not appropriate for these students and they have limited opportunities to participate in or be exposed to high school interscholastic or extracurricular sports. The secondary purpose of GUMBO is to train professionals and parents to coach and prepare the athletes properly.

All youngsters should experience the lessons learned from winning and losing. The entire competitive experience should come as an extension of learning the correct way of performing a skill, knowing the equipment, conditioning the body, and, finally, of competing. Children and young adults with disabilities can successfully integrate into community road races and other athletic events (wheelchair basketball, archery, swimming, etc.) with a little training and practical experience. In this way, GUMBO fills a very special need!

1. To support youth with disabilities in developing active minds, self confidence, dignity, discipline and independence.
2. Promote health and fitness in youth and young adults with physical disabilities.
3. Give individuals, along with their families, the opportunity to interact with others of similar disabilities and interests     while developing new friendships.
4. Boost personal aspirations by increasing self-worth, motivation and confidence.
5. Teach life-long skills such as team effort, sportsmanship, goal setting, commitment, and responsibility to oneself and to a team.
6. Reach potential for a lifetime of recreation and/or sports.
7. Educate the community, parents and professionals on the capabilities of those with physical disabilities.

Who May Participate?

Any Louisiana resident, age 5 through 18, who has a physical or visual disability is eligible for competition. Students 19 to 22 are allowed to compete if they are enrolled full-time in a public school special education program. Examples of disability are spinal cord injuries, cerebral palsy, amputations, muscular dystrophy, spina bifida, other orthopedic disabilities, and most visual impairments. GUMBO is for ALL children with physical or visual impairments, not just for those receiving special educational services.

Where and When are the Competitions?

Five main events are held each year. The regional competitions are held each spring in Shreveport, New Orleans, Alexandria. and Lafayette. The GUMBO INVITATIONAL (state competition) is held each fall in Alexandria. A Boccia State Tournament is also held each year. Additional competitions or sport clinics are scheduled in other areas of the state when a significant number of students are interested. For more details visit our page on What's Cooking?

What Does it Cost to Participate?

There are no entry fees for GUMBO events. Regional and state competitions are scheduled on Friday or Saturday, and most participating school systems can provide or assist with transportation for the athletes. At the state competition, lodging and meals are provided for the athletes and their coaches.

Who Coaches the GUMBO Athlete?

Most of the athletes at the elementary school level are coached by a physical education teacher, classroom teacher, or a parent. Athletes at the secondary level are usually coached by a physical education teacher or the high school track coach. Anyone can volunteer to coach an athlete with a disability. Coaching methods are not unlike those used with able-bodied athletes. With a little bit of technical assistance and training, anyone can become a GUMBO coach!

Who Sponsors GUMBO Competitions?

All GUMBO activities are collaboratively sponsored by the Louisiana Department of Education, Division of Special Populations, Louisiana GUMBO, Inc., the Louisiana Elks Association, and Families Helping Families at the CrossRoads. All aspects of GUMBO events are organized and initiated by volunteers. Each agency/organization provides both monetary contributions and unlimited hours of in-kind services.

GUMBO does not have a paid staff. The members of the Board of Directors for Louisiana GUMBO, Inc. are volunteers representing parents, coaches, officials, business and industry, and education. The Executive Director and Program Coordinator are employed by agencies that collaboratively support GUMBO (Lousiana Department of Education and Families Helping Families at the CrossRoads), and as such, allocate a portion of employee time to this exceptional program.

How Can I Get My Student/Child Involved in GUMBO?

For more information, an entry form for competition, or the GUMBO rules, contact Pam Carey, Program Coordinator, (Families Helping Families at the CrossRoads), phone 1-800-259-7200, 318- 452-7771, or email Carey33452@aol.com. Workshops, clinics, and seminars are scheduled throughout the year in various locations for parents, teacher, athletes, and volunteers. Registration and participation are always free of charge.

How Can I Help GUMBO?

GUMBO currently serves fewer than 1/3 of the students in our state who have physical or visual disabilities. In order to expand into additional areas of the state and improve opportunities for students, GUMBO needs financial support. Louisiana GUMBO, Inc. is recognized as nonprofit and is exempt from federal income tax under Section 501(a) of the Internal Revenue Code as an organization described in Section 501(c)(3). Monies or services donated to Louisiana GUMBO, Inc. are used directly for the program and the children it serves; the donations are tax deductible. To make a donation please make your checks payable to GUMBO, Inc. and mail to GUMBO, Inc, 2840 A Military Hwy, Pineville, LA 71360

Additionally, volunteers are always needed to work the competitions as assistant officials, student aides, food service, etc.; or to help in the office with mailings, copying, and computer work. Whether you prefer indoors or out-of-doors, activities or desk work, GUMBO has a place for you.

For more information please contact Pam Carey, Program Coordinator, (Families Helping Families at the CrossRoads), phone 1-800-259-7200, 318-452-7771, or email