We Won!

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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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BIG

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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.

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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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Belonging

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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Perseverance

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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Moving Forward

Since returning from the Holidays, the question that has been following me every wherekob I go is “Did you raise enough money to replace the $310,000 that you lost?”  My answer to that question – “No, we did not.”  That answer is usually followed by this question- “So now what is going to happen?”

Before heading down that path, I want to first of all direct my thoughts to the many, many people who made contributions to help Special Olympics New Mexico fill our revenue gap.  Whether you supported us through the ONE UP CAMPAIGN, went to our website and clicked on the “Donate Today” button, sent us a check, or sent an email or note with words of encouragement – THANK YOU very, very, very, much.  Every act brought and continues to bring a depth of gratitude.

We were able to lessen the gap, but not enough to avoid having to make hard decisions moving forward.  The Special Olympics New Mexico Board of Directors passed a deficit budget for 2018 – which in part included having to raise team registration fees for State Competitions, eliminating some meals and other things at our Games, but perhaps the decision that has drawn the most attention is that Special Olympics New Mexico will not be sending a team to the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games.  Not an easy decision for sure, and not easy being the only state who won’t be competing, but this decision  impacted the least amount of our athletes.

The truth today is this – none of us know what will happen in 2018, but we are moving forward with a tremendous amount of HOPE – trusting the God of our Games, who has always been faithful.  Please keep Special Olympics New Mexico in your prayers.  We are deeply grateful for all of you who stand with us striving to win, remaining  brave in the attempt, and loving and valuing the lives of our athletes more than ever.

Click on the link to watch KOB News 4’s story: http://www.kob.com/albuquerque-news/after-losing-funding-new-mexico-unable-to-send-athletes-to-national-special-olympics/4732841/

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The Season

It is that time of the year, again.  Thanksgiving dinner ends and the majority of us downchristmas-star shift into a holiday season that represents our religious beliefs, cultural preferences, and presents.   For me – it’s Christmas.  For many of my friends – it’s Hanukkah.  For a few other of my friends – it’s Kwanzaa.

I can only speak from personal experience – but this is always the “busiest” season of each year.  Parties, shopping, family gatherings, decorating, baking, school programs, travel, TV specials, church services – all of these wrapped into about 30 days at 100 miles per hour.  It’s wonderful, exhausting and at times – a tad stressful.

The other morning on my way to work, I was starting to feel that stressful thing – and a song came over the radio that I hadn’t heard before.  At first, I half-listened to the song, but as the melody went on, I fully listened to what the artist was singing.  The chorus was catchy and the words were as follows –

“I need a silent night, a holy night
To hear an angel voice through the chaos and the noise
I need a midnight clear, a little peace right here
To end this crazy day with a silent night.”

The song stilled me, as I was reminded of the reason I celebrate Christmas.  It also reminded me that unless I am intentional – having silent nights and those important holy nights probably won’t happen.  Here’s my thoughts about that.  No matter what you believe to be truth – the reason you will be celebrating – silent nights and holy nights are purposefully meant to replenish our soul.  They are important to our well-being.  They have the power to fill empty spaces in our lives, so that we can fill the empty spaces in other peoples’ lives.  They put meaning into our Holiday and into our hearts.

Need a silent night?

Video Link: I Need a Silent Night Amy Grant

 

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