“Once you go once, there is no escaping it. You can’t help but get hooked” says Meggan Rogers talking about her experience with the Special Olympics Illinois. To her and her mother Linda Hagemann, the Special Olympics community is like a second family to them.
Meggan’s mother, Linda, is a police liaison at the Kane County State’s Attorney Office. She has worked at that office for more than 40 years. With her position, she has gained very close friendships with the officers and police departments in the area. One day, a good friend, Police Chief of East Dundee PD and State Director for Illinois Law Enforcement Torch Run, Joe Pena asked her to attend a weekend at this event called the “Special Olympics Illinois Summer Games”. She was hesitant, as she had three young daughters, Meggan, Nicole, and Sara to take care of. But, she took the opportunity, and of course, her and extremely supportive husband with everything Special Olympics Illinois, Scott, headed to Bloomington/Normal. “Just one weekend”, Linda quoted. “Well as you know, just one time turns into a lifetime”. This “one time” was in 1998, 22 years ago.
Now for Meggan, she was only at the age of four when she attended this first summer games event. From this moment, by the time she was eight, she was wanting to be a special education teacher. She, along with her sisters, became so attached to the Special Olympics, that they gave up going on a trip to Disney World, as the dates of the Summer Games would overlap their time at Disney. Meggan quoted her saying when she was younger: “No mom, we’re not going to Disney because our friends will miss us, they will be looking for us”, their friends being the Special Olympics Illinois athletes that they had become so close to.
With Meggan’s love and constant involvement with the Special Olympics community, and of course wanting to be a Special Education teacher since she was eight years old, she went on to be a Special Education teacher at Mill Creek Elementary School in Geneva. She personally works with five intellectually disabled children, or as she calls them, “kiddos”, in a self-contained room, mainly where the kids spend 70-80% of the school day. What this is, is a room, just like a classroom, where these kiddos are taught more life-based information and instruction. Now for the other 20-30% of the school day, the students spend their time with other children in the school, whether that be at recess, lunch, or other school gatherings. “I look at it now (being involved with the Special Olympics) as a teacher, I wish more parents and more families would teach that acceptance and provide those opportunities to kids, just to make the world a better place”.
For Linda, she could not be more proud of her daughter Meggan and the direction she has gone with helping intellectually disabled children. She herself stays involved with Special Olympics Illinois to this day:
“Those were some amazing family times. Watching the girls grow up with the love they have for the athletes, the excitement, looking for certain athletes they had bonded with, had started a relationship with. As parents, Scott and I were so proud of them, and I think they grew up accepting everybody…they grew up around these athletes that they were just like them. The athletes were just like them”.
She, along with her family, wants people to understand that someone who is intellectually disabled is no different than us. They can do the same, if not more, than many of us! They are able to touch our hearts and change the lives of many, just as they did for Linda and Meggan.