October 2021 Change Makers

Mai-Lin Hegel

Athlete of the Month

Mai-Lin has been competing for Special Olympics Colorado (SOCO) for 34 years. She first got involved when she was 8 years old through the Special Education in her school. The first sport she competed in was track and field. Currently, Mai-Lin competes in basketball, softball volleyball, snowboarding, cross-country skiing, swimming and track and field.

Mai-Lin’s favorite memories being part of Special Olympics Colorado include being named the 1989 Outstanding Female Athlete for Adams County, as well as being inducted into the Special Olympics Colorado Hall of Fame as the 1991 Female Athlete of the Year. She has also served on the SOCO Board of Directors and has represented Team Colorado at two Special Olympics USA Games. The first USA Games she attended was in South Bend, Indiana in 1987 where she competed in track and Field. She then competed in swimming at the 2010 USA Games in Lincoln, Nebraska. In 2011, Mai-Lin had the opportunity to go to Athens, Greece for the Special Olympics World Games.

In addition to competing for Special Olympics, Mai-Lin has a full-time job at Holland and Hart, where she has worked for 20 years.

Through Special Olympics, Mai-Lin has met new friends. “Special Olympics has taught me the value of friendship, dedication and encouragement,” she said. “But the one that stands out the most to me is the Special Olympics Oath which is ‘Let me win, but if I can not win, let me be brave in the attempt.'”

Congratulations Mai-Lin, on being selected as the October Athlete of the Month!


Marni McNeese and Mary Stratton

Coaches of the Month

Marni and Mary have been incredible leaders of the Aurora Community Program. Marni has been a coach for 4 years and a community coordinator for 2 years, while Mary has been the coordinator for the program for 27 years.

Marni first got involved with Special Olympics Colorado when her step-son was diagnosed and she wanted him to have a safe place to grow and be accepted for his disability. Currently, Marni coaches basketball and softball. From there, she helps out with other sports when needed.

Marni said she absolutely loves the smiles on the faces of the athletes, the high fives and the hugs and that’s easily the best part about coaching in her opinion. “Special Olympics is where I see athletes grow into the individuals they are,” said Marni. “It has given me a place to give back to athletes in a way that fills my heart.  I enjoy seeing athletes meet a goal big or small, love being able to see them go outside their comfort zone and see their potential unfold.”

Mary stepped up as the Aurora Community Program coordinator after the previous coordinator left. She ended up being entirely responsible for the group until Marni came along.  “I felt it to be very important to give back to our organization due to how much our son gained from participating in Aurora Special Olympics,” said Mary. “I was also able to see so many athletes grow over the years through their participation in Special Olympics.” Recently, Mary helped redevelop the Aurora Community gold skills program and supported her husband when he coached golf, flag football and basketball in the past.

Mary says she’s honored to have been put in the many positions she’s served. “Aurora Special Olympics is like a family supporting and helping each other and helping us all grow together,” said Mary. “Marni has been a crucial force in this and has allowed us to continually greatly impact the lives of our athletes. I couldn’t do this without her.”

Thank you to Marni and Mary for all they’ve done for the Aurora Community Program and congratulations on being recognized as the October Coach of the Month!

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