A year ago, Colby Bannister used index cards as he gave speeches to police classes, business groups and schools about living with Down syndrome.
“His speeches are to educate people on interacting with people who have intellectual disabilities,” said Rhonda Bannister, Colby’s mother, a deputy with the Tarrant County Constable’s Office.
The North Richland Hills man averages about 30 speeches a year throughout Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas, and has always worked with the cards as he spoke. Bannister got a significant upgrade at the end of 2014 because of recruits at the Grand Prairie police academy, where he spoke last summer.
“We saw that he was using flash cards,” said Grand Prairie police Officer Travis Carrasco. “Since he told us that he does quite a few speeches a year, we just thought it would be easier for him if he had something other than those flash cards.”
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The officers took up a collection and gave Bannister, 28, an iPad Mini when they graduated.
Bannister got the tablet Dec. 19 during the officers’ graduation ceremonies at the Ruthe Jackson Center in Grand Prairie.
“I was very surprised,” Bannister said. “I’m very proud and honored.”
He has been speaking publicly since he was 14. When he’s not giving speeches, Bannister works at the North Richland Hills Recreation Center and lifts weights.
He has been a global messenger for Special Olympics for years. Messengers are athletics who share their skills and experiences with groups and organizations. Bannister is a swimmer, cyclist, power lifter and gymnast. He won a gold medal on high bars in the 2011 Special Olympics in Athens, Greece.
His speeches sometimes focus on the Law Enforcement Torch Run, one of the largest fund-raisers for Special Olympics.
The talks, 10 to 15 minutes long followed by a question and answer session, are a family affair because he cannot drive. His drivers include his mother, his dad, Randy Bannister, also a deputy constable in Tarrant County or his 21-year-old sister, Malym Bannister, a senior at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches.
His speech in August made an impression on the officers at the Grand Prairie police academy.
“He’s very inspiring,” said Officer Carrasco. “It was great to see what he can do.”
Bannister said he remembered them.
“It’s very interesting because they asked a lot of questions,” he said.
Bannister said he uses the iPad a lot: “I was very happy to get it. I don’t use the cards anymore.”
Domingo Ramirez Jr., 817-390-7763