The Colorado Special Olympics organization is about to get a new team joining their ranks—the team will be called the Eastern Colorado Dragons and will encompass special athletes from all across Eastern Colorado. The Dragons will be a part of the state’s northeast region.
The creation of the Eastern Colorado Dragons is the project of Holly McNeely of Cheyenne Wells. McNeely and her family moved out to the eastern plains in September of 2023 from Colorado Springs. They have relatives in the Kit Carson area so they are definitely not strangers to the area and understand this undertaking is a big one given the geographical area it will encompass.
Holly says, “I have a vision to have this team be the beginning of something special. These kids just want to be part of something like most of their siblings. I want somewhere where these special kids can feel less different and more like their peers. Somewhere where they feel proud of themselves and have the ability to be themselves.”
Holly’s interest in Special Olympics is inspired by her thirteen-year-old child. She was a Special Olympics coach for 3 years prior to moving out to the eastern plains. This will be her 4th year of involvement. She adds, “I also love how they will belong to a team they can call their own! I would love to have this be one of a few teams, but right now at least we will have a team in our area.”
Readers may wonder what qualifies a child to be able to participate in the Special Olympics. Holly says a Q & A section is on their webpage that will answer specific questions, but in general any child with an intellectual disability that causes cognitive delays and/or learning difficulties is eligible to be a part of this excellent and storied organization.
Children ages 8-18 are eligible and the competitions are divided by various age groups as well as separate divisions for boys and girls. The events within the sports are varied and there is definitely some event that meets the abilities of any child.
In organizing the Dragons McNeely points out that she is in great need of other volunteers who would agree to be coaches for the Dragons. “Right now, the biggest need is coaches to help coach, especially the sports I don’t know. And getting the word out to athletes. But we can only take as many athletes as our coaches can handle.”
The Dragons will be competing in two main sports—Track & Field, and Swimming. McNeely has in mind that the Track & Field practices and/or events will be held in Burlington once per week as it is centrally located. She also sees the Swimming practices and/or events held in Wray as they have an indoor pool. However, if the right coaches sign up, practices could be located in other towns and at other facilities in order to cut down on driving.
Since there is only one Special Olympics team that will be located in the entire east side of the state, they will have to compete among themselves until the regional meets in May, probably in the Denver area, and the state meets in June. Every athlete that competes in regionals also goes to state.
Team sign ups started this week and run through March 2, 2024. Feel free to sign up and if specific days and times don’t work then you can always change your mind or figure out an alternative idea. All coaches and athletes are required to sign up online for Special Olympics. Coaches need to pass a Class A test in order to be sure the kids are safe and in good hands. All athletes must fill out the athlete application to be sure they are medically cleared to play. Both of these requirements are good for 3 years and can begin immediately upon approval.
More information about getting involved as a coach can be found here and for an online meeting to understand how the spring sports work.
If you have any questions, Holly can be contacted by email at
The Independent covers a wide array of local elementary, middle school, high school, and college sports. Therefore, we are looking forward to adding Special Olympics contests to our sports coverage.