“Former State Representative Henry “Kiki” Saavedra has died.” I have read and heard those words repeatedly the past few days, and each time those words leave me wishing I could see him and thank him – just one more time.
Representative Henry “Kiki” Saavedra served in the New Mexico House of Representatives for 38 years. Two years after his election, he was appointed to the Appropriations Committee, where as a junior legislator, his support of Special Olympics New Mexico not only shaped our organization’s beginnings, but brought us to where we are today. Kiki introduced legislation that made New Mexico one of the first states in our country to provide funds so that children and adults with intellectual disabilities could train and compete in sports like their non-disabled peers.
Kiki was a really good baseball player and for a time, his love of sport led him to serve as the Director of Parks and Recreation in Albuquerque. While there, he made it his mission to help those with developmental disabilities participate in a variety of recreational sports. He grew to love them and recognized not only how much they loved participating in sport, but also how devalued and unwelcomed they were in our schools, places of business, and even in our neighborhoods. Kiki knew that as a government official, he could make an impact. Through Special Olympics, he realized he could help change the lives of thousands of our state’s intellectually disabled and their families. He also knew that through Special Olympics, non-disabled New Mexicans would experience in our athletes what he did – kindness, innocence, joy, and unconditional love. Kiki was committed to making New Mexico a better place to live for everyone.
Webster defines the word champion as “one that does battle for another’s rights or honor.” For decades, Representative Henry “Kiki” Saavedra truly was THE CHAMPION of the athletes of Special Olympics New Mexico. He not only made our state funding possible, but for the thousands who could never repay him – he protected it. He made our state a better place and just one more time, I wish I could thank him for that.