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A Brother’s Love Continues

When SONM athlete Marcus Hopkins passed away five years ago, it left a hole in a lot of people’s hearts. His name comes up frequently around Special Olympics New Mexico, and a few weeks ago, it came up again in a very beautiful way. The memory of Marcus was about to be uniquely honored by his brother, Sam, and Sam’s future wife, Clementine.

I just couldn’t resist sharing Sam’s words with you:

“There’s so many good things to say about Marcus that we could easily be here all day, remembering and talking about them. However, there was one particular defining feature of Marcus’ life that tells us a lot about him, and that was Special Olympics. It was a vehicle for many of the things he loved most in life: sports, exercise, competition, learning, community, friendship, sharing, and love. He played every Special Olympics sport that he could get his hands on, relished every moment, and was always up for more.

The number and variety of options that there were in Special Olympics was so important to him. Most of our conversations ended up on subjects such as the upcoming basketball season, the new teammates on his softball team, the results of the weekend’s track and field competition, and how he was improving in cycling. Seeing him at any Special Olympics event was like watching a class reunion. Marcus had so many life-long friends that he saw on a regular basis because of their shared interest in Special Olympics. One of the fondest memories I have of us growing up together is going to the Special Olympics World Summer Games in North Carolina. What an incredible once-in-a-lifetime adventure for my brother to be able to meet and mingle with other Special Olympics athletes from literally all over the world.

For many people like Marcus, Special Olympics is the only vehicle they have to keep physically fit, make new friends, and feel like a welcomed part of a community. Despite this fact, Special Olympics New Mexico endured some funding cuts a while back, and the organization is still catching up and can really use a boost. So, instead of a wedding present, Clem and I are asking for your generous donations to Special Olympics New Mexico. Give as much as you can because every dollar, euro, quid, peso, or rupee will make a very real difference in someone’s life.”

Thank you Sam and Clem. Your thoughtfulness not only helped to fill our organization’s financial hole a little more, but maybe even more importantly Sam, your words helped fill the hole in everyone’s hearts a little more. -Randy

 

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Summer Games Super Heroes

Selecting a theme for our State Summer Games is never easy. We discuss, debate, ponder, discuss a little more, and then finally pick. This year we were hoping to choose the Avengers theme, but there were copyright limitations, so we expanded and chose Super Heroes.

I bet most people have a favorite super hero. Growing up, mine was “Faster than a speeding bullet. More powerful than a locomotive. Able to leap tall buildings with a single bound. It’s a bird. It’s a plane. No- it’s SUPERMAN!”

I liked Superman because in everyday life he was Clark Kent, an ordinary person who lived pretty humbly, until someone was in trouble and had a need. Then, off came his glasses, his tie, his clothes (often in a phone booth) and in an instant, there was Superman- using his power to rescue, serve, give, and protect.

Just by their very presence, super heroes change what’s going on around them. By choosing to act- they help things get better. With that in mind, we will be inviting EVERYONE who comes to our 2019 State Summer Games to do the same. Be a hero.

We invite our attendees to be a super hero by making things better for the following places:  
1) Animal Humane: please bring cat food or dog food to be given to the shelter.
2) United Blood Services: for those willing and able, please visit the Blood Mobile and donate blood, which will be sent statewide to communities in need.
3) Albuquerque has been selected as a “Bee City USA.” At Summer Games we will be handing out wildflower seeds for anyone interested in planting them. Planting flowers can help save our honeybees who are disappearing at alarming rates.

Superman used to tell us that “There is a superhero in all of us, we just need the courage to put on the cape.” When we seek to make a positive difference in our communities- we become the best version of ourselves. I’m looking forward to seeing that at our State Summer Games.

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Their Duty, Their Honor

If you ever research nonprofit Board of Directors you will learn that their commitment is often described as “DUTIES,” of which there are three:

1) The Duty of Care, in which board members must exercise reasonable care when making decisions for the organization they represent.
2) The Duty of Loyalty, where board members must never use information they receive for personal gain, avoiding the appearance of conflicts.
3) The Duty of Obedience, where board members must be faithful to the mission of the nonprofit.

Special Olympics New Mexico is very fortunate to have a Board of Directors who not only perform these three duties, but are on course to strengthen our organization in ways we have never experienced. Not only are the members of our board deeply passionate about our organizational sustainability, they are personally honored to represent our athletes and families- and it shows.

The SONM Board of Directors is diverse, with members living in and representing different parts of New Mexico including Los Alamos, Las Cruces, Santa Fe, and Albuquerque. Last week, most of our board members met in Albuquerque and after our meeting we took our first group photo of the year.

Meet The Board! Not pictured: Consuelo Bolagh-Cowder, Steve Soliz, Mike Geier, Kristi Gibbs, and Warren Ellis. 

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Special Olympics New Mexico 2019 Executive Committee:
Chairman, Karen Hudson, Hudson Commercial
Past Chairman, Jack Eichorn, The Eichorn Company
1st Vice Chair, Dub Girand, Highway Supply, LLC
2nd Vice Chair, Warren Ellis, Mass Mutual Financial Group SW
Secretary, Ryan Danoff, Michael L. Danoff & Assoc. P. C.
Treasurer, Steve Pino, Century Service Corporation
Board Members:
Ryan Garcia, Wells Fargo
Tom Padilla, HUB International
Craig Amundson, C & E Enterprise, LLC
Consuelo Bolagh-Cowder, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of New Mexico
Mark Wiggins, Mark’s Casa Chevrolet
Mike Geier, Albuquerque Police Department
Sarah Friedman, Special Olympics Athlete
Kristi Gibbs, Old Republic Title
Karen Bailey, US Bank Las Cruces
Art Montoya, Dr. Art Montoya Jr. DDS
Nikki Hooser, Retired Rancher
Connie Johnson, Retired Residential Realtor
Kari Harnick, Harnick Orthodontics
Steve Soliz, KOB 4 Eyewitness News

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Poly Hockey and a little more

Poly Hockey is by far Special Olympics New Mexico’s favorite team sport to watch. Watching our athletes play is as much fun as it is mesmerizing. The athletes love it so much and the rest of us can’t help but follow suit. We absolutely LOVE poly hockey. I could go on and on about this year’s State Championships. My thoughts today aren’t about what happened in the rinks a couple weeks ago, but what happened after the competition- at the Victory Dance.

A young man walked to the table where I was sitting, music blaring around us, and I could tell by the look on his face he had something to say to me. I had not noticed this athlete before- dark hair, high cheek bones- he was a good looking young man. When he spoke his first words to me, he struggled badly to say them. My immediate thought- cerebral palsy. I failed miserably at understanding him until finally, he took out his cell phone and started to text.

“How does Special Olympics raise money?”
“Can I do an online fundraiser?”
“Can Special Olympics help the homeless?”
“Can I compete and volunteer at Summer Games?”
“Can Special Olympics offer yoga?”

When I left the dance that night I couldn’t help but think about that athlete and his questions. Here are my thoughts. Sometimes, we get so focused on serving others – we forget that those whom we serve may also have the desire to do the same for others. Our athletes may struggle to articulate their desires to serve or even find ways or opportunities to do it, but truth be told, helping others brings value to everyone. Serving brings greater meaning to our lives.

I left the Poly Hockey dance committed to finding a place for that young man to help us, and I remain grateful to him for helping me see what would have never been a thought in my mind otherwise.

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Kiki

“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.

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Appreciation

This past Wednesday was National Law Enforcement Appreciation Day. The day was founded in 2015 to recognize and show appreciation for the men and women who have dedicated their lives to serve and protect. National Law Enforcement Appreciation Day is only celebrated one day a year, but law enforcement officers risk their lives every day, on and off the clock. Every day, the men, women, and children who are family of law enforcement show more strength and support than most of us can imagine. Every day, law enforcement deserve our appreciation and respect.

Worldwide, Special Olympics is deeply connected to law enforcement officers through the international organization Law Enforcement Torch Run, who in 2018 raised a total of $58,000,000 on behalf of our athletes! What Special Olympics would look like without the partnership of law enforcement officers is beyond me, but my thoughts today aren’t about Torch Run. Today, my thoughts are about the individuals whose service I tend to take for granted.

Michelle Ugalde and Doyle Syling have been involved with Special Olympics New Mexico for years. Because I have known these two officers for so long, I called them to thank them for their service and dig a little deeper into just why they chose law enforcement as a career.

Michelle Ugalde has been in law enforcement for twenty years. She is currently a sergeant with the Dona Ana Sheriff’s Department. When I asked her why she chose to be a cop she shared this: “I chose law enforcement to make a difference – and I mean that. I wanted to make sure that any time I was involved in making an arrest, the person who was being arrested was treated with respect and told they made a mistake; they made a bad choice.” I am thankful for Michelle’s reasoning and grateful that she has served her community well.

Doyle Syling is now retired after 23 years of service, and was a sergeant with the Alamogordo Police Department. Doyle told me that his father was in law enforcement and that he and his brother both chose to walk in those same footsteps. He said that like his father, he believed he could make a difference in his community by serving in law enforcement, and that he also knew the choice came with a price. He shared: “As a cop, you are exposed to tragic things that change you. After a while you become bulletproof to those things and suppress your emotions. That has an impact on your family. I would have never been able to stay in law enforcement without my faith in God.”

Today, I am thankful for those who serve and protect with integrity, honor, and a good heart. To all who serve: I appreciate the risks you take and all that you do on our behalf.

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Crowded

This time of year, life feels very crowded. On top of our normal schedules and to-do lists, I bet most of us have additional chores, errands, parties and travel added to our days. The days are fast-paced and packed with endless to-dos, and the nights relaxing at home feel too short and far between.

Last night I listened to Linus explain the true meaning of Christmas to Charlie Brown. Linus shares the biblical story of Jesus’ birth in the manger, stating “the angel said unto them, ‘Fear not; for behold, I bring you tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.’” Whether you believe Linus’ explanation or not, the experience Mary and Joseph had is relatable today: a knock at the door of an inn, an ordinary couple turned away, hearing “sorry, but there is no room at the inn. It’s FULL.”

Here are my thoughts. Hearing “It’s FULL,” or feeling that life is too full results in missed opportunities. If you are anything like me- when my days get too crowded- I miss a lot of opportunities during the holidays. One opportunity is taking the time to find a quiet moment and still my soul. When I carve out time to be still, I see beyond this busy season as I am reminded of the gifts God promises to each and every one of us: hope for tomorrow and more love for today. Whether in the late hours of the night or the very early hours of the morning, I hope you can also seek a quiet place and find time to be still. I hope you find time to reflect.

It is with these thoughts I wish you a Merry Christmas, a Happy Hanukkah, and a very healthy, hopeful, and Happy New Year.

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