By STUART GROSKREUTZ
One of the original members of the St. Croix Valley Lumberjacks Special Olympics team when it started in 2000, Melody Wagoner was recently honored as the team’s Athlete of the Year.
Wagoner has been participating in Special Olympics since 1983 – more than 26 years.
"Melody has been our team staple," said Kathy Junker, one of her coaches. "She joined the team in 2000 when we first started and competes in bowling, swimming, golf, track and field, skiing, basketball and softball…. forgive me if there are more, these are the only ones I know off the top of my head."
Wagoner competed with Team Minnesota in basketball at the 2007 National Games in Ames, Iowa, is an Area 12 athlete representative, a global messenger and the Special Olympics Athlete Leadership Program.
"She is a leader in how she represents herself and our team," Junker said. "Mel loves when new athletes join our team and she is always among the first to greet the new athlete and their family. She especially likes taking the little ones under her wing of knowledge."
Wagoner, who lives on her own in an apartment and works at Kohl’s, has continued to pursue new challenges while participating with the Lumberjacks. During the most recent swim season, Wagoner competed in the 200 individual medley.
"She worked very hard on her transitions from one stroke to the next and the proper touches on the wall," Junker said. "Watching her compete in this event was the most rewarding, not only for her as the athlete, but for all who coached her.
"Melody is a true leader and she shines a positive light on Special Olympics Minnesota. She also shines a positive light in the Stillwater community."
Wagoner’s upbeat personality – she calls everyone "Miss Wonderful" – never fails to bring smiles to the entire team. When there is work to be done Wagoner is also the first to lend a helping hand.
"Every team fundraiser, I can count on Melody to be there," Junker said, noting it doesn’t matter if she’s handing out Tootsie Rolls in the snow, washing cars on hot August days, bagging groceries at Cub on New Year’s Day or helping with pancake breakfasts. "She not only does her two-hour shift requirement, she always pulls four hours for me. She is truly committed to the improvement of the Lumberjacks team a whole."