HELENA — If you've been to a Carroll College or Helena Capital football game, you've likely seen Chris Halverson, a Special Olympics athelte with the Tri-County Wolves as well as a Global Messenger for Special Olympics alongside his mentor Domingo Zapata.
The two have worked together for years to spread awareness and raise funds for Special Olympics Montana, but when it comes down to it, Zapata says their relationship is much more than that.
"I've known Chris since I was knee-high to a duck. He actually went to school with my older sister. And then through that, and Special Olympics, he and I just forged a relationship," said Zapata.
Halverson and Zapata go to events locally and around the region to raise awareness and funds for Special Olympics to help put on events and get any equipment the organization needs.
"I'm usually Chris's hype man, set him up to do the big spiel and we do a good job," said Zapata.
Halverson suffered a traumatic injury at a young age that left Chris in a non-verbal state, but just because he can't use his voice to speak, doesn't mean he doesn't have one. Halverson and Zapata use speakers and text-to-speech app's to give him a voice to maintain the Global Messenger platform, which opens the door for plenty of options.
"That's probably been the most challenging part is just finding the right speaker or finding a program or an app that doesn't delete our speech or change that last minute," chuckled Zapata. "And then trying to find a voice for Chris that he likes. Sometimes he wants to go British, sometimes he wants to go deep voice Darth Vader, but it's all in good fun. Chris has a really good time with it."
Though the two do a lot of good work for Special Olympics Montana, it's not work for Zapata, it's friendship.
"Every time I see him I light up. Every time he sees me, he lights up. It's not a handshake. It's definitely a hug. Sometimes that hug can last 10-15 seconds. And then sometimes it's give and take pushing back and forth because that's just what we are at the end of it. We're just boys."