Celebrating the 50th

This year the Special Olympics New Mexico State Summer Games theme is “Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Special Olympics.”  It’s hard to believe that fifty years ago Eunice Kennedy Shriver ushered 1,000 Special Olympics athletes into Soldier Field in Chicago to compete in the first Special Olympics International Games. Athletes were represented from three countries, and the competition changed the lives of people with intellectual disabilities forever.  In fact, that day has been described as the day that “released an entire population from a prison of ignorance and misunderstanding.”  It’s hard to believe that today, over FIVE MILLION Special Olympics athletes from more than 180 countries are training, competing, and continuing to serve as champions of change.

Like all anniversaries, this anniversary invites us to leave our daily routine and re-live and reflect on the foundational year of 1968. This year deserves celebration because it changed the way we think and the way we act… forever.  Even Mayor Richard Daley who in 1968 stood by Mrs. Shriver’s side at those first Games was quoted as saying “You know, Eunice, the world will never be the same after this.”  He was right.  I think the very heart of this entire 50th Anniversary can be captured in that thought.

Just like the Special Olympics Games in Chicago, our Special Olympics State Summer Games in Albuquerque will be a celebration of every person’s life that has been changed through a Special Olympics experience.  As we link our past to the present, I pray hearts will be full as we play together, laugh together, celebrate together and live together.  TOGETHER is why we are celebrating.  TOGETHER remains our goal for the next fifty years.









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A Story

This morning I had the opportunity to speak at a Civitan Club meeting.  Civitan International is a volunteer service club who in the 1950’s adopted a special emphasis on helping people with intellectual disabilities.  Today they have an International Research Center on the University of Alabama campus, where research is being done on autism, epilepsy, brain tumors and more.  Civitan Clubs in Albuquerque set up games and crafts for our Special Olympics athletes to enjoy at our State Summer Games Olympic Village.

Anyhow, Dave, the President of the Club started the meeting this morning with a story, which I have chosen to share with you.

Dave was driving through his neighborhood one night last week, when suddenly the car in front of him came to a sudden halt.  It was dark and Dave said he was immediately skeptical, until he saw a woman get out of the driver’s side and hurry to the front of her car.  He then noticed two small girls who jumped out of the back seat and bee lined it to the front, as well.

Dave said his immediate response was to join them, and when he reached the three, he saw a flattened rabbit on the pavement.  He said when he saw the look on the little girls faces, he immediately ran back to his car, grabbed a grocery bag out of the back seat, and told the girls as he was putting the rabbit into the bag, he would take it to the animal hospital, where the hospital would make the rabbit as good as new.

Well, he admitted to all of us that he in fact did not end up taking the rabbit anywhere, but waited until the car was out of sight and then promptly disposed of it.  Here are my thoughts: Dave responded to strangers with kindness because of the attitude of his heart.  He saw the situation, and rather than avoid it, he did the best he could under the circumstances.  By doing so, even though he couldn’t change everything, he sent two little girls and their mom home feeling a whole lot better.


As I have thought about that story, it reminds me that it is the attitude of our heart that guides each of us to do what is right.  It is the attitude of our heart that can make our stories good stories or not so good stories.  What choices will you make today and what will your story be?




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We Won!


On Monday it was announced in the Albuquerque Journal Business Outlook that Special Olympics New Mexico was selected to receive this year’s prestigious New Mexico Ethics in Business Awards Hopkins Award for Excellence in Ethical Practice by a Nonprofit Organization. I have to say – this is the National Championship of awards.

After being nominated last year, SONM went through an extensive process, which began with interviews by students from the University of New Mexico’s Anderson School of Management.  Following those interviews we submitted a document reflecting how we demonstrate our organization’s principles around Leadership Character, Ethical Culture, Clear Purpose and Conviction, and Valuing People.  We were then interviewed by members of the selection committee, who chose the award recipients to include Ethical Business Practice by a For-Profit Business, Individual Excellence in Ethical Business Practice, Ethical Young Leadership Award for Youth Committed to Excellence, and Ethical Practice by a Non-Profit Organization.

This award doesn’t just speak of one person’s effort but years of people within our organization doing things right, demonstrating high levels of personal character, and meeting the highest standards of ethics.  I believe that the motivation and inspiration to do the right thing,especially when those right decisions aren’t always as obvious as they seem, stems from valuing the Special Olympics athletes we serve.  We have always and will continue to put their best interest first.


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Sometimes we get so involved in the details of life, we forget to stop and think about the bigger picture. Lately, I have been reminded of just how big the Special Olympics Movement is, and more so, how each one of us should see ourselves in it.

In the past 30 days, in the name of Special Olympics New Mexico, I have attended the following: New Mexico’s Legislative session, the 2018 Special Olympics New Mexico State Poly Hockey Championships, the United States Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools Conference, and New Mexico’s 2018 Law Enforcement Torch Run Kick-Off.

My point in sharing those recent activities with you is this: the Special Olympics Movement has a wonderful way of showing each of us, regardless of what our role is in Special Olympics, just how important we are in the big picture. Whether we are a Board member, a student, a Law Enforcement officer, an athletic official, an educator, a  Senator or Representative, a Games volunteer, a parent, a donor, a Special Olympics professional, or a Special Olympics athlete – not one of us is more valuable to this Movement than the other.

Today, helping other people know that they can make a meaningful difference, that their lives can change and they can help change other lives, that who they are matters – those are really BIG things. They are so big in fact, that each one of us should be inviting others to be a part of the Special Olympics movement, too. There are too many still waiting to experience it.

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She Shoots – She SCORES!

Tonight the U.S. Women’s Olympic Hockey Team will face off against the Canadians. If you haven’t been following – this will be a rematch for these two teams who will be competing for the Gold Medal. Four years ago, both teams competed for the Gold Medal and Canada won 3-2. In fact, this is the third Olympic final between the two teams. Great rivalry!

This weekend, teams from all over New Mexico will travel to Farmington to play in the 2018 Special Olympics State Poly Hockey Championships. Only 30% of the athletes will be women, but like tonight – there will also be great rivalry games. I think most everyone in our organization who ever played Poly Hockey or watched it would agree that this is Special Olympics New Mexico’s favorite team sport. We love our hockey here in the desert. Opening Ceremonies will include a slap shot contest, and once those Ceremonies end and competition begins, it’s “hard to the net” the rest of the weekend.


Sometimes it’s hard to put Special Olympics competition into words. To watch athletes who are challenged with a disability give a sport their “all” can still one’s heart and open one’s eyes to see differently. I have watched these athletes a million times and each time I am reminded of this quote – “To win the game is great – to play the game is greater – to love the game is greatest.” Looking forward to hearing “STICKS!”


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Lately, I have been more aware of our athletes’ presence in their respective communities around our state. Facebook allows me to know what our athletes are up to, and I love seeing how they are engaged in the world. Special Olympics is intentional about building athlete engagement through Unified Sports programs.

Special Olympics works hard to partner people with intellectual disabilities and those without, as they train and compete together on the same team. The program is called Unified Sports. Special Olympics New Mexico offers competition in unified golf, unified bocce, unified volleyball, unified softball, unified bowling, unified flag football, and unified track and aquatics relays. We are also building our Unified Champion Schools programs statewide. This program offers unified sports to students during the school day and in 2017, twenty-nine New Mexico schools participated. Statistics show that 86% of the school staff felt like the program made a big impact on reducing bullying and teasing in their schools, and 84% of the students regarded the experience as a positive turning point in their lives.

Inclusion does this – it leads to BELONGING.  When we feel like we don’t belong somewhere, we aren’t free to be who we are.  If you have not experienced that feeling before, be thankful, because it’s terrible.  When people are made to feel they belong, it’s a whole different story.  It’s not about simply being included; it’s about knowing that when you’re not there you are sorely missed.  If you have experienced BELONGING, be thankful, because it’s wonderful.

People with intellectual disabilities have been blessed with certain gifts that can only be appreciated by hanging out with them, including them, inviting them. Truth is, we all belong here. When we realize that, “HERE” is a much better place.





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As most of you who are reading this know, a good number of our State Senators and Legislators are talking about Special Olympics New Mexico right now.  Yesterday, I spent the day at the Round House, meeting those men and women who represent our State Government. I want to share with you how much more today I appreciate what they do.  Yesterday, our government officials were more than willing to talk with us.  They were attentive to why we were there, and they were engaged.

As far as what we have gone through since the elimination of our contract with the Department of Health – I was reminded of something while reading the Book of James this morning.   It starts out “Count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance …”  Instead of the word endurance, some versions use the word patience, perseverance, or steadfastness.

In my opinion, we have endured through this trial, and as far as counting it as “JOY” – well, we certainly have learned a great deal from it.  Literally thousands of people in our state are now more aware of the depth of our work and the athletes we serve.  And, as far as our elected officials are concerned, I am hoping they recognize our work as relevant and vital to the communities they represent.  Our organization has learned where our strengths lie, how many more people are impacted by what we do, and how important it is to articulate our work in a different way to different audiences.  For all of those things – I am counting it joy.


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