Alex Kinney has been skiing with Special Olympics Colorado for over 20 years and still loves it just as much as he did the day he started. When asked what he loves most about the sport, he exclaimed, “I just love to ski!” He continued by saying he loves practicing, competing, helping his teammates and being nice to everyone he encounters.
He didn’t join our programs alone though. Back in 1994, Alex and his entire family began participating and volunteering with Special Olympics Colorado. This was an extremely special opportunity Alex has shared with his 4 younger siblings. As his father David said, “it’s been a huge impact on Alex and really a great experience.” Alex also participates in bowling and works at King Soopers! Additionally, the program has helped him meet a lot of new friends, including his girlfriend! He feels great and has gained so much confidence. SOCO has had a huge impact on Alex and he in turn has impacted the coaches, managers and athletes he works with, making him very deserving of this award. Congratulations Alex, our March Male Athlete of the Month!
Young Athletes Program
Violet Roberts is a spunky young lady who loves to swim! Although she’s been a part of the Special Olympics Colorado Young Athletes program for nearly 3 years she just started swimming at the 2016 Summer Games in Grand Junction. She immediately fell in love with the sport and especially loves splashing around and blowing bubbles! As Heather, Violet’s mother, put it, “Violet took to swimming like she had been doing it since she was born.”
Special Olympics Colorado has helped bring Violet out of her shell. In addition to swimming, Violet has participated in both gymnastics and soccer. She is an extremely determined young athlete who is always willing to try out new sports and opportunities- something she didn’t do before joining our program! Heather now describes her daughter as a very happy girl who smiles a lot, is always willing to help, and is very funny! She is such a special young lady who is extremely deserving of this award. Congratulations to Violet, our March Female Athlete of the Month!
Alie Goldblatt has been a dedicated Special Olympics Colorado volunteer for six years! Alie’s involvement with SOCO stretches across many programs. She is a Unified Partner with the Denver Parks and Rec Soccer team, plays as a Unified Partner on the Rapids team, has held a summer internship in the SOCO Program Department, is an active and engaged member of the Youth Activation Committee and, most recently, is representing Special Olympics Colorado at the 2017 World Games in Austria this March! Alie first got introduced to Special Olympics Colorado in the fourth grade through her elementary school’s Special Olympics Field Day. Alie quickly recognized the importance of spreading the message of inclusion, and she believes sports are a great avenue to do so. Alie has been impacted by many of the Special Olympics athletes she has competed with and become friends with, and she has enjoyed helping them achieve their goals. Ali encourages any potential volunteer to come out to a SOCO event and see how fun it is, she knows they will come back many times over again! Ali believes Special Olympics Colorado is an inspiring organization and plans to be a volunteer for many more years to come.
Mike Gagliardi has become a huge asset to the SE Region in the past 1.5 years. He and his wife, Colleen, have a 9 year old son who participates in Special Olympics, named Troy. Mike noticed there were not a lot of opportunities for junior level athletes in the SE Region and wanted to make a difference. He has organized over 40 new junior athletes that will be kicking off their first season together in Spring of 2017 with soccer. Without a lot of notice, Mike also coached the Steamrollers Red & Blue flag football teams during the Fall of 2016 and made a huge impact by taking gold in both team’s divisions at state. You can’t miss Mike on the ski slopes with his son Troy where he participates in the tethered snowboard event and coaches with the Colorado Caribou. Not only does Mike coach, but he is also a part of the Southeast Regional Management Team and he is wife focus on athlete recruitment and are making a huge difference in the SE Region.
Burkhardt Family- Randy, Barb and Mackenzie
Randy Burkhardt began volunteering with Special Olympics Colorado in 1985. In 1987 he travelled to Toronto for the World Games where he met his wife, Barb. Barb and Randy’s daughter, Mackenzie, first participated in a SOCO game when she was just 2 months old! Currently the Burkhardt Family participates in the alpine ski program and Winter Games. Over the years, Randy has been involved with the Winter Games Games Organizing Committee (GOC), ski training program, and traveled to 6 World Games. Mackenzie is now an active Unified Partner on the Youth Activation Committee at SOCO and has participated in several Polar Plunges as well. The Burkhardt Family shares a real desire to give back to their community and their engagement with Special Olympics Colorado has allowed them to do that. Randy enjoys being able to share something he truly loves, skiing, with the Special Olympics athletes and feels truly motivated by the athletes’ commitment to the sport. Randy is inspired by each individual athlete’s progression and feels a huge degree of satisfaction when he sees athletes program in their skill level. Randy shares a story of one athlete whom he has worked with for the past 15 years that now not only competes, but also assists the race crew for the competitions! Randy describes Special Olympics Colorado as a fantastic, unifying and fulfilling organization and encourages any and all volunteers and family members to get involved!
Rocky Mountain Law Enforcement
Federal Credit Union
Rocky Mountain Law Enforcement Federal Credit Union (RMLEFCU) has been a supporter of Special Olympics Colorado’s Law Enforcement Torch Run since 2013. To date, they have donated more than $95,000 to support SOCO!
RMLEFCU has been involved with Special Olympics Colorado in many ways, including by participating in the Law Enforcement Torch Run at the Capitol, Plane Pull, and Polar Plunge. In their three locations they have held bake sales and “Jeans Fridays” to raise money for their Plane Pull and Polar Plunge teams. Furthermore, they attend our Law Enforcement Torch Run Conference each year, and this year celebrated their 4th Anniversary as our Law Enforcement Annual Sponsor. Thank you for all you do, Rocky Mountain Law Enforcement Federal Credit Union!
Montrose County School District RE-1J
Montrose School District RE1J is deserving of the School of the Month Award as they are a model program on the Western Slope of Colorado. This district has flourished in the past few years thanks to Carolyn Rettig, a previous SOCO HOF outstanding Volunteer. Montrose High Schools Unified Program has assemblies each semester, holds a haunted house that their Unified Clubs hosts each fall and they put together homecoming floats as an inclusive school. Each fall, Montrose School District drives a van of around 15 athletes and partners to Denver to attend Special Olympics Colorado’s Unified Schools Youth Summit. Montrose put together a video they created to show other schools the impact of the program and help spread the word of Unified School Strategy. Each Spring, School District RE1J also hosts their own school track and field meet and hosts R-Word assemblies to impact the most amount of students possible. They are planning to start up a Healthy Leap program this semester and participate in both Local Program Unified Sports and School Based Unified Sports all while attending regional and state level competitions. The teachers are very enthused and excited about the positive things the program has done for the whole student body. Montrose School District fulfills all components of Unified School Strategy and each year adds more initiatives that promote inclusion impacting more students and teachers daily.