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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. 


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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“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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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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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.

starry night photo for dec newsletter





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My Thoughts today are about the “man in the middle.” He was my first hire 25 years ago. His title – Director of Sports and Competition. He was hired to strengthen a chain that had a lot of missing links at the time. He came to Special Olympics New Mexico with a very clear idea of what a strong sports program should look like, and since his first day on the job, his ideals and philosophies about sports training and competition have not wavered. The thing that stood out back then was his ability to “dream out loud” about the way things ought to be, which made those of us around him every day count on him for those ideas – no matter how lofty. It didn’t take long to realize he was the right man for the job. Twenty five years later – he’s still the right man for the job.

On behalf of everyone who has worn the Special Olympics New Mexico brand over the past twenty-five years – thank you, Chris Page. Your love for our athletes, your love of the game, and your ability to continue to dream out loud inspires all of us to keep working hard for the Special Olympics New Mexico of tomorrow.


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The other day I was reading an article about a book written by Carlin Flora called Friendfluence. The article went on to say that the majority of research done on friendship focuses on children and adolescents and that rarely is research conducted to address lifetime friendships.

The article left me thinking about many of my lifetime friendships that were formed because of my involvement in Special Olympics. Friendship is woven into the mission of Special Olympics, and in everything we do. The mission of Special Olympics is to provide year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities. This gives them continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy and participate in a sharing of gifts, skills and friendship with their families, other Special Olympics athletes and the community.

In the book Friendfluence, Flora goes in-depth discussing what friendships can do. They can influence our direction, inspire us to reach goals, help us define our priorities, and especially true in Special Olympics – friends help us find and connect with more friends. It is with that thought in mind I encourage each of you to reach out to more people with intellectual disabilities, who may very well be friendless. Form friendships. If we’re lucky and they’re lucky – friendships can equal friends forever.

September Newsletter Photo

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