NDSU graduate makes a long-lasting difference at Special Olympics North Dakota
Published October 2016
NDSU graduate Kathy Meagher has been a runner her whole life. She loves the simple joy of putting one foot in front of the other, mile after mile, heart pounding and endurance building.
She wanted to spread her love of running to others, so as an NDSU student, she volunteered with Special Olympics North Dakota. She taught the athletes how to run.
Meagher was well qualified for the role. She studied physical education, ran track and cross country and had experience teaching children with intellectual disabilities.
Her experiences as a student-athlete helped prepare her to move from a volunteer role to building a long-standing career at Special Olympics North Dakota. She’s another example of NDSU graduates that live and work in the area.
Just starting out
After commencement, Meagher returned to her hometown of Rugby, North Dakota, and worked as a summer recreational sports director. Her father encouraged her to apply for a position with Special Olympics North Dakota and drove her to Grand Forks for the interview.
She got the job as the director of sports for the organization. For six years, she used her NDSU connections as she traveled around the state, fundraising and organizing tournaments.
Meagher overcame challenges, such as a severe car accident early on in her career and past financial hardships of the organization. She had to fundraise her salary when she first started her career.
But she kept going. She’s served as president for the past 29 years. Each day is different for Meagher as she helps plan the North Dakota State Games each year, fundraises and manages employees and volunteers.
“Sport is a universal language,” said Meagher. “I work with wonderful people all the time.”
Special Olympics North Dakota provides year-round athletic training and competition for people with intellectual disabilities. Its goal is to empower individuals and promote respect and fairness.
Meagher sees first-hand what the organization means to the athletes and their families. Belonging, hope and perseverance are prevalent at all tournaments. If an athlete falls during a run, another athlete comes along side to finish the race together. They don’t give up.
“I’m passionate about our mission to use sports for more than competing,” said Meagher, noting the state games are the highlight of the year for many families. “It’s an organization of people helping other people.”
Not slowing down
For 35 years, Meagher has built her career around her passion for people and sports. She makes a difference in the lives of her coworkers, athletes and families. Her father’s reminder helps her succeed – lean on your endurance.
“Early on, he’d tell me to keep sticking it out,” said Meagher. “I like challenges and creating something out of nothing.”
Even after all of these years, Meagher isn’t afraid to try new things. Special Olympics North Dakota revamped the State Games earlier this year with an expanded schedule and additional facilities.
Her endurance keeps her going, just like it has her whole life.
“If someone says it can’t be done, let’s figure out a way to do it,” said Meagher. “The more stones you overturn, the more awareness happens.”