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Aiming High

MacKenzie MacDonald has faced many challenges growing up. She and her parents found ways to overcome -- and Special Olympics was a big part of that. It still is.

A Tough Road

MacKenzie has been setting high goals for herself, both in sports and in life.

When she was a little girl, MacKenzie MacDonald wanted to be just like her older sisters, who were standout players on their sports teams. But MacKenzie had some health issues -- including pituitary dwarfism -- and an intellectual disability. She spent years undergoing experimental treatment for dwarfism that involved, among other things, receiving an injection every night from age 2 to 15.

There were other challenges, especially by the time MacKenzie got to middle school. "To be honest, in school, people with intellectual disabilities don't always have an easy path," recalls her dad. "There were hard times trying to fit in and make new friends."

The Power of Sports

Years ago, Steve MacDonald helped his daughter learn to ski by hitting the slopes with a rope tied around both their waists. Now, she leaves Dad behind as a Special Olympics cross-country skiier.

Getting in good physical shape was important for MacKenzie, but Special Olympics offered something more. "It gave her the chance to be part of a group, like our other children," says her dad, Steve MacDonald. "It was also great because through sports, you learn about teamwork -- how to cooperate and work together."

Through sports, MacKenzie learned to set goals -- and achieve them. Her dad says, "She felt success -- and her confidence soared," which helped her excel at swimming, track, cycling and skiing. Her dad also says that discipline also helped her in school and beyond.

Special Olympics has made such an impact on MacKenzie’s life that when she graduated from high school, she wanted her senior class picture taken with her Special Olympics medals . She has also made many friends through Special Olympics – lifelong friends she enjoys to this day.

Giving Back to Her Community

 MacKenzie’s road wasn’t easy, but she took it all in stride. Now 28, MacKenzie stands a proud 5-foot-4. She also continues to work hard to achieve her goals -- no matter how high she sets them. And she sets them high: the toddler once diagnosed with dwarfism has grown up to be a skilled basketball player!

Special Olympics sports also gave MacKenzie skills to succeed outside the playing field and in life. These days, she works in the lunchroom at a local high school and volunteers to help physically challenged athletes at Special Olympics events. "She knows everybody -- and they know her," says her dad. "Because she's a joy to be around."