Vail Valley local Shaun Martin raises money for Special Olympics with vertical cycling challenge |

Vail Valley local Shaun Martin raises money for Special Olympics with vertical cycling challenge

Vail Valley local Shaun Martin is spending the month of March working for a cause he’s passionate about: Special Olympics.

Through March, Martin will raise money through donor sponsorships for every 1,000 feet he climbs on his bike. So, if a donor pledges $1 and Martin climbs 25,000 feet, the total donation would be $25. He’s accepting sponsorships and flat donations through the 31st of the month.

“The reason I keep coming back, and this is going to sound so cheesy, but it’s because it does make me feel good. It makes me feel like I am actually making a difference,” he said.

Martin and his wife started coaching swimming for Special Olympics five years ago. As they got more involved with the organization, they expanded to skiing and cycling, and have developed relationships with athletes and their families all over the state.

Shaun Martin and his wife have been coaching Special Olympics for five years, focusing on swimming, cycling and skiing.
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Martin’s background is in physical therapy, and while working in a facility in his home country of New Zealand, he treated kids aged 5-18 in a school setting. When they were unable to participate in an activity due to their disability, like art class or gym class, they would come to Martin and he would administer therapy based on that activity: so art therapy for art; physical therapy for gym.

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That’s where his passion for working with this demographic came from. While no one in his immediate circle is intellectually or physically disabled, he enjoyed helping others get the most out of life in spite of their challenges.

“My connection is just with all the families that we work with. Every family is awesome. Every athlete is awesome. It’s just so feel-good,” Martin said.

And also, challenging himself athletically was a big motivator for Martin. A competitive person, he enjoys coaching his athletes and watching them succeed and be the best as much as he enjoys providing a fun experience for them.

He hopes that his challenge will give some exposure to the work that Special Olympics is doing in Colorado. Most of their events don’t get much exposure, and the athletes and coaches have been doing safe, social-distancing and virtual activities like virtual yoga or virtual movie nights since the pandemic.

“We have missed out on all of our regional and state competitions for the last six months,” Martin said.

He’s hoping that a month-long fundraiser will raise awareness for Special Olympics, the enrichment it provides to its participants and the good fortune most able-bodied people experience on a daily basis.

“Like, for a guy like me, to maybe appreciate it … like, ‘Look, dude. You’ve been given so much. And there’s other people that are so happy and so appreciative of what they’ve been given, no matter what it is,’” he said.

Most importantly, Martin wants everyone who reads his story and participates in the fundraiser to understand how lucky they are, in terms of their ability to navigate the world with relative ease.

“The world was made for me. I’m 5-foot-10-and-a-half. I’m a middle-aged white guy,” he said. “I’ve just been so lucky. I think gratitude for what we have is a big part of why I’m doing it. We do have something to be truly grateful for.”

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