The mission of Special Olympics Colorado is to provide year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities, giving them continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy and participate in the sharing of gifts, skills and friendships with their families, other Special Olympics athletes, and the community.
Throughout history, people with intellectual disabilities (ID) have suffered from the worst forms of abuse, discrimination, and have been denied basic human needs - connection, health and hope for a better life. In 1968, Eunice Kennedy Shriver took a stand against injustices faced by people with ID and fought for inclusion, through the creation of Special Olympics. In 1969, Special Olympics Colorado (SOCO) joined in her fight to advocate and create lifelong opportunities for youth and adults with ID by combating complacency, ignorance and stigma through unique programs.
Now, over 50 years later, SOCO still provides year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with ID, giving them continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy and participate in a sharing of gifts, skills and friendships with their families, other Special Olympics athletes and the community.
"Special Olympics athletes can do anything that they desire. Having a disability is not a challenge for me because in Special Olympics, we don't see our disabilities. We only see our abilities." - Mai-Lin Hegel, Special Olympics Colorado Athlete
Michael Krall, 14, has cerebral palsy. He has been learning how to alpine ski since he was 6, and recently started competing as a Special Olympics Colorado athlete.
His first competition was on February 10th, 2014, when he competed in the Northeast Area Winter Games at Eldora Mountain Resort. Michael was nervous about the race, having never raced before. His love for skiing has always been strong, despite the physical limitations his disabilities have created. However, until recently, he's been fearful of competing.
Shortly before the race was to start, Michael said he wasn't going to be able to go through with it. With encouragement from his parents, though, he didn't give up, as the desire to press through and experience accomplishment motivated him. When he crossed the finish line, the joy on his face was immeasurable. He realized that by competing in the race - a race that required him to use his legs - he had won! He had overcome one of his most significant life obstacles.
On the way home from the event, Michael told his dad, "I didn't know I would experience so much joy!" His self-esteem has grown immensely since he began participating in SOCO. Michael's family is grateful to SOCO for making this experience possible for their son, and they look forward to watching Michael continue to flourish in years to come as he continues to participate in the Special Olympics Colorado movement.