May 2024 Change Makers

Amaia Kitzman

Athlete of the Month

Amaia got involved with Special Olympics Colorado last year. She really wanted to play soccer, so her mom found Special Olympics Colorado and got her involved.

Right now, Amaia competes in track and field and soccer team, but has also participated in tennis, basketball and swimming.

Recently, Amaia tried out and secured her spot the Switchbacks FC Unified soccer team. “Me being on the Switchbacks is amazing,” she said. “Everyone is understanding. My favorite part is learning how to be better.”

Through Special Olympics Colorado, Amaia enjoys learning about different sports and meeting new friends. “I never thought of myself as an athlete,” said Amaia, but the medals she’s earned in the past year tell a different story.

Amaia has enjoyed every moment throughout her time with Special Olympics Colorado. “I don’t have a favorite memory,” explained Amaia. “Every memory that I have are all my favorites.”

We are excited to recognize Amaia as the May Athlete of the Month. Congratulations!


The Mercado Family

Family of the Month

The Mercado family (Marianne, Anna and Catie) first got involved 24 years ago when they received an invitation to learn to ski when Anna was in grade school.

Special Olympics Colorado means a lot to the Mercado family. Marianne, Anna’s and Catie’s mother, mentioned that their team treats them as family and are always willing to hear their concerns and suggestions with an open mind. When she’s not competing, Marianne said that Anna enjoys volunteering at sports venues she doesn’t compete in and being part of the leadership team and was the announcer at the Western Regional Athletics competition last year. Last year, Anna was also part of the SOCO Street Team where she covered different competitions and interviewed athletes to be featured on social media. Because of all this, her confidence has grown and she’s widened her perspective. For Marianne, she feels that volunteering is my way of saying thank you and paying it forward for future athletes and their families.

Their favorite memory as a family was attending the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games in Orlando, FL where Anna competed in powerlifting with Team Colorado. “Watching Anna compete in powerlifting on the big screen and in person, just like all the major sports was truly exciting,” explained Marianne. “To watch your athlete be treated with so much respect and enthusiasm made all of us proud. Anna was in her element every step of the way.” At the USA Games, Anna came home with 1 bronze medal, 2 silver medals and 1 gold medal.

To the Mercados, Special Olympics Colorado is family. “We have made friends across the state that we look forward to getting together with whenever our athletes are competing at the same venue,” Marianne said. “Anna and I attended the Hall of Fame banquet last October for the first time and again, it was all about our athletes, coaches, families and those who support us every step of the way.”

Marianne remembered the time in middle school and high school when Anna stepped away from Special Olympics Colorado and learned that not everyone was as welcoming and inclusive. “She did get to be the Cheer manager for her high school cheer team and competed on the girls swim team at the invitation of the coach, but her social world was much smaller,” she explained. “Once she rejoined Special Olympics, her life improved and she became happier. Since then, Anna has inspired her younger sister, Catie, to pursue Special Education. Now, Catie is teaching Special Education in Austin, TX where she is also coaching Unified basketball and soccer at the middle school level.

“As a mom, I can’t thank SOCO enough for the community and love they share with all of us,” said Marianne.

We are so glad to have the Mercados as part of the Special Olympics Colorado family and we are excited to recognize them as the May Family of the Month!

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