Michelle Alvord embodied everything it meant to be a Special Olympics Minnesota athlete. She was strong. She was positive. She was kind to everyone she met.
Michelle became a Special Olympics athlete in 1983 and competed in basketball, swimming, bocce, bowling, softball, floor hockey and track and field. She was also a Global Messenger and volunteered at various Special Olympics events.
It has long been Michelle’s dream to compete at the Special Olympics USA Games and she was thrilled to be chosen to attend the USA Games in Orlando on Team Minnesota’s half-court basketball team. When she was chosen to represent Minnesota at the USA Games, she said, “It means so much that I was chosen for USA Games. I feel so good and loved. I look forward to meeting new people and having fun with my teammates. I can’t wait to compete. I hope I can win!”
Unfortunately, Michelle was diagnosed with liver cancer in early 2022 and despite special efforts to provide travel accommodations, Michelle’s cancer progressed to a point that prevented her from traveling to the games.
“This past week and the ten months of training leading up to the 2022 USA Games is an experience I’ll forever be grateful for. Our basketball team connected from the start, but then our bond grew even stronger after Michelle shared her news at practice in February that she’d been diagnosed with stage four liver cancer,” says coach Aimee Libby. “The girls rallied around Michelle and so did the rest of Team Minnesota once they heard the news.”
While Michelle couldn’t physically be with her team in Orlando, she was certainly there in spirit. As Team Minnesota marched into Opening Ceremonies in the parade of athletes, all delegation members honored Michele by wearing bracelets on their arm that said “Michelle #5” – #5 is Michelle’s jersey number.
Throughout USA Games, Michele’s half-court team members and the rest of Team Minnesota did everything they could to include her in the event from home. Coaches and fans of Team Minnesota spent time video chatting with Michelle throughout the week, livestreaming her team’s basketball games and kept her updated on everything they were up to in Orlando.
Michelle’s basketball team left it all out on the court, ultimately bringing home the gold.
“Our 3v3 ladies played their hearts out, representing Special Olympics Minnesota so well by bringing home a gold medal…for Michelle,” says Aimee.
Even though she couldn’t be there for the award ceremony, USA Games staff went above and beyond by shipping Michelle her gold medal overnight so she could celebrate with her teammates from afar.
Michelle passed away just a couple weeks after Team Minnesota returned home from USA Games. In her final days, Michelle’s USA Games teammates and coaches were able to visit, giving her all the gifts and pins they collected for her, and were able to share memories of the many ways people showed their love and support for her while in Orlando.
“Michelle made it very clear that she wants all items of monetary value in her estate to be left for Special Olympics Minnesota to continue furthering so many of the opportunities and experiences she has enjoyed over the years,” says Aimee.
Thank you, Michelle, for leaving such a profound impact on Team Minnesota and the entire Special Olympics Minnesota community.