Hanna Joy Atkinson, 24, was born and raised in Littleton, Colorado. At the age of two, she was diagnosed with leukemia and her first fight began. After beating cancer, she found her love of skiing and started competing on the slopes with Special Olympics Colorado at the age of 13. From there, she joined Unified basketball, swimming, and cycling.
A 2014 graduate of Heritage High School, Hanna was selected to give her high school graduation speech and received a scholarship from the John Lynch Foundation as the “Exceptional Star of the Year.”
Off the playing field, Hanna served as a member of the State Youth Activation Council, became a local Fitness Captain to train athletes on the importance of healthy living, and was a contributor for ABC Denver 7 News, where she earned a Heartland Broadcast Emmy for her piece titled “More Alike Than Different.”
Through her involvement with Special Olympics, she is able to serve in meaningful leadership roles, such as a Health Messenger and now as a Sargent Shriver International Global Messenger. She has also participated twice in Capitol Hill Day in Washington, D.C.; represented Special Olympics at the Laureus Sport for Good conference in Paris, France; reported at the X Games in Aspen; and was selected as a national representative for the Finish Line campaign.
Hanna’s busy life also includes her job at Olive Garden as a hostess, as a reporter for Lady Gaga’s Channel Kindness, as well as managing her own business, “Wholeheartedly Hanna,” which she dedicates to her late brother’s memory. She takes part in the “Trek 100” every year, where she cycles 66 miles in one day to raise money for childhood cancer.
She enjoys cooking healthy meals, reading, serving others, and spending time with her parents, Tim and Colette, siblings, Paul and Emily, and her nephew, Finn. Her sense of humor is ever present, and when you ask her what her favorite part of Special Olympics is, she will tell you all about the friends she has made and the joy she has been able to share.