Through Special Olympics, Mia Camp has gained friendships to last a lifetime; healthy goals for the future; and the confidence to live her life independently.
Mia has been an athlete for over 15 years, beginning her Special Olympics career in Colorado as soon as she was eligible to participate at just eight years old. She competed in basketball, soccer and softball with the Douglas County Special Olympics delegation.
Reflecting on her first years with Special Olympics, Mia says, “I was just a little kid when I joined, but it was amazing right away. Everyone was kind and it just felt like a family.”
Mia’s mom, Carrie, says that Special Olympics was a great fit from the start.
“Mia has never been a ‘sit still’ kind of girl,” says Carrie with a smile. “It’s important for her to stay active, and Special Olympics was the perfect outlet for her to keep moving.”
Not only have sports been an incredible physical outlet for Mia, but participating in Special Olympics appeals to her social nature as well.
“I love meeting new people,” says Mia. “It’s fun to play sports with others and cheer people on.”
“She enjoyed the social aspect right away,” says Carrie. “Special Olympics has allowed her to be a part of a group where she can just be herself. No anxiety, no worriedness.”
Because of the strong community they found in Colorado, when Mia and Carrie moved to Minnesota in 2012, finding a Special Olympics team in their area was their top priority. Carrie immediately reached out to the Special Olympics Minnesota state office, and they put her in touch with the St. Michael-Albertville Stallions.
Over a decade later, Mia is more active than ever. Today, she participates in bowling, basketball, and track and field with the Stallions. Plus, she added swimming to her roster with the Monticello Mavericks.
“I love my teammates and coaches,” says Mia. “They have given me great opportunities to meet new people and to play lots of sports. My team is like family. Everyone is kind and caring.”
One of Mia’s favorite accomplishments as a Special Olympics Minnesota athlete is making it to USA Games—twice! She made her national debut in 2018, competing in track and field in Seattle.
“I was so proud of myself for getting to Seattle,” says Mia. “I never thought I would make it there, but I set a goal and achieved it. It was awesome.”
“Mia had one goal at the 2018 USA Games,” says Carrie. “To not finish in last place.”
Carrie went on to explain that while Mia is competitive, it’s not all about the medals for her. “We had a whole fan club cheering her on during her race, and she was just ecstatic when she realized she accomplished her goal!”
Her second USA Games appearance was in 2022 in Orlando, Florida. Mia and her half-court basketball team made history as Team Minnesota’s first ever all-female half court team to attend the national competition.
Both USA Games experiences made Mia realize just how thankful she is for her mom: “I’m so grateful for my mom’s efforts to get me to USA Games. She drove me to practices and gave me so much support. I love my mom.”
Mia has big goals for the next few years. At the top of her list is finding a long-term job and independent living after graduating from Bethel University’s BUILD Program. BUILD is a 2-year program where people with intellectual disabilities attend college classes while also learning life skills like cooking, driving and more.
“I’m going to finish my program and get a new puppy next spring,” says Mia. “And I hope I can live on my own in the near future.”
Mia’s Special Olympics goals are just as big. She is working hard to qualify for the 2026 Special Olympics USA Games in swimming or bowling when they come to Minnesota. Even if she isn’t selected as an athlete, Mia still wants to be a part of the action.
“If I don’t get to compete, I definitely want to be a volunteer,” Mia says with a smile.
As we celebrate 50 years of Special Olympics Minnesota, Carrie and Mia shared their vision for the next 50 years of our organization. They’re looking forward to increasing participation across the state, recruiting more coaches to support our athletes and seeing more exposure of Special Olympics programs on a local and national level.
“I look forward to the day when Special Olympics is a part of every school and every community,” says Carrie. “I hope that no matter where someone is located or what they’re interested in, they know they can be a part of the fun.”
Mia and Carrie are champions of inclusion! We are proud of everything they have accomplished and can’t wait to watch Mia continue to grow as a Special Olympics Minnesota athlete. If you or someone you know is interested in becoming an athlete, please click here to learn more.