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Choosing Uphill

I think it’s interesting how the very end of one year and the start of another has a way of nudging us into deeper reflection of what was, followed by a sense of renewed optimism around what we hope will be. Inspired by author John Maxwell, this new year reminds me of his book on Uphill-Downhill living. Perhaps the end of 2022 and the start of 2023 is a good time for us to evaluate our lives as they are today. Since 2020, have we been stuck in a Downhill Slide – and if so – are we ready for an Uphill Climb? 

If you feel stuck, ask yourself:

  1. Downhill Slide of Repairing: How can I begin the Uphill Climb of Preparing?
  2. Downhill Slide of No Improvement: How can I commit to an Uphill Climb of Self-Improvement?
  3. Downhill Slide of Good Intentions: How can I change those intentions to the Uphill Climb of Intentional Actions?

When I look at Special Olympics New Mexico today, having endured a very different couple of years, it is my hope that in 2023 all of us will choose an Uphill Climb. We owe it to our athletes and to be honest, we owe it to ourselves to better prepare for the days ahead. We can focus on making improvements in our lives and the lives of those around us. Let’s stop overthinking what we should do and start doing the things that matter.

It is in the climb that we will find hope and celebration in 2023.

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Happy and Merry

It seems as though our attention right now is being drawn to Thanksgiving and Christmas – all in one fell swoop. Chances are if you walk into any store, you will see signs of both holidays. I can’t say for sure what I think about that, but I can say seeing reminders of both of these holidays shifts my focus off of myself and onto who and what matters most to me. My heart is filled with gratitude when I focus on those I’m thankful for.

Thanksgiving, Christmas, and other holidays we celebrate this time of year are always better when we find ways to give to others from our heart and with our hands. Sending a card to someone who has made a difference in our life, making a call to a family member or friend we haven’t talked to in awhile, sharing a meal or a coffee–these are deeply connected to the Happy and Merry of this season.

This holiday season, I not only want to feel thankful, I am going to thank God more. A friend sent me an email the other day that said “If all you had today is what you thanked God for yesterday – what would you have?” As I thought about that, I realized I wouldn’t have had much that day, because my thank you list the day before was short.

I thank God for my health, for inviting me to join Him in the work I get to do, for giving me family and people who make my life better – that’s a lot to be thankful for. But most of all, I will thank Him today and tomorrow for reminding me that Happy and Merry isn’t about me at all, but about showing love for others. Should we choose to do that this season, may our hearts be full.

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The 2022 Four Corners Invitational was held August 19-20 in Farmington. Thankfully, our coaches, event volunteers, law enforcement officers, officials, families, and everyone who participated showed up visibly happy to be there. Our athletes worked hard and competed strong in Unified golf, swimming, Unified softball, and skills events. What really caught my attention over the weekend was the WAY our athletes competed.

My thoughts today are this: In almost every arena, all of us are taught to strive against the opposition in order to win. We are taught that to win, we must “defeat or establish superiority over others who are trying to do the same.” The origin of the word compete is the Latin word competere. Interestingly, its meaning is “to come together, to seek together, to strive together.” Don’t get me wrong, our athletes LOVE to win, but when they compete, I get the sense that perhaps more than the rest of us, they are striving together and seeking to make each other better. Special Olympics athletes easily and authentically celebrate each other’s accomplishments. I think they embody the gift of bringing out the best in every person.

Can you just imagine what it would look like if we all agreed that the goal of competition was to make each other better in the process of striving to win?

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Above and Beyond

On Saturday, August 6, Special Olympics New Mexico is hosting an event that I believe would be a refreshing addition to the nightly news. In partnership with the French Family of Companies, we will present fifteen Distinguished Service Awards to people in our organization who have not only met but far exceeded the expectations of their role and responsibilities. By doing so, the Special Olympics movement in New Mexico has been considerably strengthened and blessed beyond measure.

My thoughts today are about the people we will honor and the choice each one made not only to serve, but to serve wholeheartedly. Some people made the right changes at the right time to strengthen Special Olympics New Mexico now and into the future. Many awardees elevate our value, moving us from a good nonprofit organization to an excellent one. Some have shared their talents and abilities by selflessly gifting them to us in ways that have added to our joy and celebration. And others have filled an obvious and specific need, which allows us to continue the meaningful work of transforming lives, building inclusive communities, and improving the quality of life for Special Olympics athletes.

For 28 years, Special Olympics New Mexico has recognized those deserving of a Distinguished Service Award. I am very thankful that for the second year in a row, we are able to honor them in this special way.

Special Olympics New Mexico Distinguished Service Awards

Presented by the French Family of Companies 

Athlete Artist of the Year

Smith Weber Sandager

Outstanding Athlete Leader

Shelby Peterson

Coaches of the Year

Robert & Carola Covarrubia

Outstanding Local Program

Special Olympics Bloomfield

Outstanding Family

The Correa Family

Outstanding Unified Champion School

Tricia Grajeda, Rio Rancho Elementary School

Outstanding Volunteer

Geoff Freeze

Outstanding Unified Partner

Richard Wirtemburg

Outstanding Civic Organization

La Cueva Football  

Outstanding Business


Outstanding Board Member

Dub Girand

Hall of Fame

Chris Castillo

Hall of Fame

Anita Williams Kelly, In Memoriam

Pursuit of Excellence

Tom Padilla

EKS Legacy Award

Carolyn Olson

Painting by Smith Weber Sandager, Special Olympics athlete and artist

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And Shine They Did

The theme of the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games was Shine as One. Themes have the power to verbalize a deeper meaning and provide a greater understanding of an event.  My thoughts today are around the theme and message of the recent Special Olympics USA Games.  “Shine as One” beautifully describes the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games and the Special Olympics athletes that shine bright every single day. 

More than 5,500 Special Olympics athletes met in Orlando, Florida to compete in 19 different sports at the Special Olympics USA Games June 5-12.  The week-long USA Games presented strong competition and required mental strength. Regardless of winning 1st place or 10th place, I witnessed Special Olympics athletes from Team New Mexico and other states celebrating each other and creating friendships. 

The dark sides of the world have been highlighted more often than not in the past few years, but Special Olympics athletes truly Shine as One together and show us that the power of their kindness, courage, effort, authenticity, and resilience can brighten any darkness.  Special Olympics athletes shine bright and remind us that every person is worthy of respect and celebration of their abilities.  Their message to all of us? When there is light in your heart, there can be no darkness.

My thanks to Team New Mexico and all of the Special Olympics athletes who competed at the Games for brightening thousands of lives with your goodness, in a way that seemingly only you can. You did Shine as One and by doing so you were and are simply the best of us.

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