Special Olympics coach gets a lot from giving | PostIndependent.com

Special Olympics coach gets a lot from giving

Post Independent/Kara K. Pearson

Mari Brennan-Combs likes to help out when it’s fun. At least that’s the reason she volunteers as a coach for Special Olympics.”I really just do it because it’s so much fun,” she said. “Their (the athletes’) spirit is what captures me. It keeps me young.”While her two kids were in school she always volunteered her time to a number of programs. But after they graduated, she still wanted to volunteer her time.Then she met Allan Jacobs, who introduced her to the program that “captured her heart,” as she put it.Jacobs, a special Olympian himself, started working a couple of days a week at Glenwood Medical Associates with Brennan-Combs nine years ago. That’s where their friendship blossomed.”I call him A.J.,” Brennan-Combs said. “He was my inspiration to get involved with Special Olympics.”The chance meeting happened after Brennan-Combs, a radiology technologist at GMA, started a paper recycling program and hired Jacobs to collect and shred the paper in the office. “He’s our recycle tech,” she said. “And he sure keeps me laughing.”

Through Jacobs, Brennan-Combs met with Mountain Valley Developmental Services to start a recycle program at their facility, where she found a new passion: coaching for Special Olympics.”She’s done so much for Special Olympics,” said Linda Austin-Martin, Mountain Valley’s recreation coordinator. “She’s a strong leader, and all the clients really have a good time with her.”As coach of the bicycling team during the summer, snowshoeing in the winter and the bowling team in the fall, Brennan-Combs spends a good portion of the year participating in activities she enjoys most.”There are a some really good athletes,” Brennan-Combs said. “But it’s mostly just to get them involved and for them to participate.”Her coaching and the Special Olympics program allows these athletes to experience the thrill of victory. The same can be said for Brennan-Combs’ participation.”Just getting that big smile from one of them, it’s just very rewarding,” she said. “I get a lot from the program, and I’ve had a wonderful time being a part of it.”Biking and snowshoeing are two activities that she does because she has enjoyed them for several years in her spare time.”I’ve been snowshoeing for a number of years,” she said. “And I bike to work in the summer.”Afternoon bike rides during the summer are not out of the ordinary for her, but bowling, on the other hand, isn’t what she’d describe as her No. 1 pastime.

“I never bowled before,” she said. “But I can fake it, and it’s a blast.”Participating in fun activities seems to be a recurring theme in her life.”All the thanks and attention they (Mountain Valley and Special Olympics) give me …,” she said. “I should be thanking them for letting me do this. It’s the most rewarding thing I’ve done.”She admits that she would do even more if the organization would let her, but there’s got to be a limit to how much one can volunteer.”Once you get involved, you just can’t help it,” she said. “It’s such a feel-good thing.”Listening to Brennan-Combs talk about her involvement, it’s almost as if the Special Olympics organization volunteers its time and athletes to aid her in her pursuit of happiness. Either way, she’s found it.”Everybody has a purpose in life,” she said. “The clients teach me so much, they don’t complain, they are your friends for life and they are always happy to see you. I just can’t explain it.”Even if she couldn’t find the words, you would know, simply by her smile.

Contact John Gardner: 945-8515, ext. 16604jgardner@postindependent.comPost Independent, Glenwood Springs, Colorado CO

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