Stories of Champions – Celebrating Special Olympics Minnesota’s 50th Anniversary
Amber and Tasha Feigh started competing with Special Olympics Minnesota when they were around 8 years old. Today, the Feigh sisters, 31 and 26 respectively, have been involved with Special Olympics for over two decades. They can be found at SOMN events year-round doing the thing they love most: cheering for and supporting each other in their favorite sports.
As Special Olympics Minnesota celebrates its 50th anniversary, Amber and Tasha, along with their mother, Mary Feigh, reflected on the ways the organization has shaped their lives. “Special Olympics Minnesota feels like a family to me,” said Tasha. “Sports are my home away from home and I couldn’t imagine life without them.”
When Mary and her husband adopted Amber, their three older daughters competed at the varsity level in high school sports. “I remember thinking about how Amber and Tasha will never have that opportunity to play,” said Mary.” “But then one of our older daughters got Amber involved in Special Olympics track and swimming. When Tasha came along a few years later, we knew we’d get her involved too.”
Amber participates in what she refers to as the “three Bs:” basketball, bocce and bowling. Tasha has tried almost every sport that Special Olympics Minnesota offers. She currently participates in basketball, bowling, flag football, gymnastics, poly hockey and softball.
Amber is easygoing when it comes to sports and competition. “If Amber gets 8th place, she’s so excited to win a prize. Medals, ribbons, it doesn’t matter,” said Mary. “It’s a little different for her sister.”
Tasha threw up her hands with a giggle. “I’m the complete opposite. I can’t help it! I’m competitive and I get frustrated when I don’t do as good as I think I should have,” said Tasha. “But my coaches really help me through those moments.”
Beyond competition, Tasha and Amber have found a community in Special Olympics Minnesota. “It’s truly their lifeline,” said Mary. “Special Olympics is where they find all their friends, and it’s where I’ve found my friends too. Most people aren’t raising kids at my age anymore, but we go to every game and practice of Tasha and Amber’s, and we love it. It keeps us young.”
When asked about her favorite moment with Special Olympics, Amber’s face lit up and she shouted “Mickey!” with a wide grin. The sisters had the opportunity of a lifetime in 2022 when they rode to the airport with police escorts, hopped on a chartered flight with athletes from across the state and traveled to Orlando, Florida, for the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games. Amber and Tasha both represented Minnesota in women’s 3v3 half court basketball. Despite winning a number of medals, the sisters agreed that the best part of the trip was away from the court. “It was so much fun hanging out with the teams down there,” recalls Tasha. “One of the nights we even had a silent disco and danced the night away.”
Another recent experience Tasha had through sports was an invitation from the NCAA to represent female athletes on the anniversary of Title IX in 2022. “It was the first time they included someone with disabilities,” said Tasha. “I didn’t really know what I signed up for, then I went to an event and my picture was on the side of a bus!” Tasha was pictured next to Minnesota Olympians Jessie Diggins and Lindsay Whalen on Title IX promotional materials.
Despite being honored alongside female sports legends, Tasha said it took a while for her to view herself as a role model for female athletes and people with disabilities. “My mom said, ‘You know you’re inspiring young girls, right?’ and I’d think no way,” said Tasha. “But I’ve slowly started to accept that.”
Amber, on the other hand, is happy to take on that role. When asked if she sees herself as an inspiration, she answered with an enthusiastic “YEP!”
The sisters often inspire each other, too. Tasha convinced Amber to take the Polar Plunge for Special Olympics Minnesota for the first time in Maple Grove this year. “Amber isn’t as verbal, so she’s not one to come to me and say, ‘I want to do this,’” said Mary. “She’s so trusting of Tasha though. She knew it would be okay if her sister was with her.” Tasha held Amber’s hand as they jumped into the frozen lake in their team basketball jerseys. When asked if Amber is planning to Plunge next year, she pumped her fist in the air with a big smile and said, “Yeah!”
Mary attributes her daughters’ willingness to try new things and conquer fears to their experiences with Special Olympics Minnesota. “Some kids are so afraid to try a sport, but Special Olympics has opportunities for everyone,” said Mary. Amber started playing basketball at the skills level where athletes learn to bounce the ball, dribble around cones and throw it into a basket on the floor. Over the years, Amber has moved up to playing full court games and even attended the national competition for basketball. “No matter an athletes’ skill level, they still get a uniform and are part of a team.”
Beyond playing sports, Special Olympics gave Tasha the opportunity to coach her sister in bocce. “When I learned I could coach, I was so excited! I finished the coaching exam at one in the morning, and then I finished the next level the day after that,” said Tasha. “Amber is easy to coach and it’s really fun.”
Just as she encourages her sister, Tasha likes to recruit her friends to try Special Olympics sports, too. “You might like it. Come watch a practice, talk to a coach, and talk to us athletes,” said Tasha. “We have so much fun! It’s a great group.”
Mary also loves to bring parents into the Special Olympics Minnesota family. “It’s a place where our kids don’t feel like they have to explain themselves and everyone’s so supportive. We can’t imagine life without Special Olympics Minnesota and the community it’s provided.”
Mary and her husband look forward to cheering from the stands as long as their daughters choose to participate in Special Olympics Minnesota. They are especially excited to see them in the same uniforms on the basketball court this spring.
As always, Amber and Tasha will look up in the stands to find mom and dad watching and smiling. And the sisters will flash big smiles back.
Amber, Tasha and Mary Feigh are champions of inclusion. We are so lucky to have their family as a part of the Special Olympics Minnesota community, and we’re thankful for the way they invite others to join the Inclusion Revolution!