She’s nearly 16-years old. Quiet and unpretentious, yet at the same time a determined spitfire, her life has been more difficult than for many of us. However, her challenges have not slowed her from pursuing her goals with the utmost enthusiasm.
The young lady is Morgan Treat of Woodinville.
Every day, she and her parents work with love and great spirit to get beyond not only her learning challenges brought about by the effects of fetal alcohol syndrome, but also to transform society’s intrinsic biases about the differently-abled among us.
Morgan proves sibling rivalry can be a positive motivator. She learned to snowboard just five years ago as a means of, as she puts it, “… being better than her big brother at something …” It appears her motivation is working for her. Over the last five years, she has become a multiple medal-winning member of SkiHawks, a branch of the nonprofit organization Outdoors for All which, in turn, is overseen by the Washington State Special Olympics (WSSO).
In the just completed 3-day WSSO annual competition (3/3/17 - 3/5/17) at Wenatchee’s Mission Ridge, Morgan brought home two Gold Medals and one Silver Medal to add to her collection that, thus far in her amateur sports career, consists of 24 Golds, 5 Silvers and 2 Bronze – all 31 medals earned in a short five-year period of time.
“Not many girls were competing in snowboarding in SkiHawks when Morgan joined the club five years ago,” says her dad, Keith Treat.
Training with SkiHawks has changed Morgan’s life by offering her opportunities to succeed on a grand, competitive level. Morgan’s parents and others close to the family say her skills and maturity level have grown incredibly since joining SkiHawks. Much of that growth is directly due to her snowboarding experience.
Morgan’s mother, Theresa Treat, says Morgan adores snow and in winter loves being outside no matter the level of inclement weather. According to Theresa, Morgan possesses a remarkable dedication to her training regimen. “In fact,” says Theresa, “Keith and I often laugh out loud when we remind each other that Morgan would rather stay out on a blustery ski slope practicing all day than stop to eat lunch.”
In addition to the positives of the physical conditioning, Morgan’s parents say the benefits of competition for any child are impressive and necessary in order to support their overall growth toward maturity including their psychological and emotional health. This is even more so for children who are differently-abled.
Theresa and Keith say competition gives a child something to be committed to both as an individual and team member. “Morgan’s success in snowboarding has taught her the difference between earning recognition versus feeling entitled to it,” they say. “This is the greatest lesson for Morgan in recent years. It’s a most valuable lesson for all kids.”
Morgan’s parents continue saying, “We think the benefits of competition start with kids knowing their parents, family, friends and coaches believe in them. With this holistic support and encouragement, they learn how to win and lose with grace and dignity.”
Morgan already has her sights set on competing in the Special Olympics world competition in Europe in 2018. Currently, Morgan’s coaches and parents are investigating the registration process and eligibility requirements of the global event. Theresa and Keith are convinced that with her indefatigable spirit and her commitment to training, Morgan will make the team. “There’s no doubt about it,” says Keith, “when she makes the team, we’ll go!”
Keith Treat says SkiHawks is all about bringing people with special needs together to form a strong and supportive community – a community where positive attitudes and great training result in moving participants’ personal beliefs from “I can’t…” to “I’ll try…” to “I CAN…”!
Morgan is well-known and well-respected for being a fearless competitor. According to her dad, Morgan learns quickly and is eager to take her skills to the next level. He explains, “Her innate instincts and willingness to improve no matter how much work it takes makes her an extraordinary athlete.”
Morgan, it appears, is also a humble competitor. Just before this weekend’s competition, her mother asked Morgan if she was ready for the races. Morgan responded matter-of-factly “Of course! I’m always one with the mountain!” She was asked what she thinks about in those last seconds when she’s poised and ready to leave the starting gate to begin her run down the course. With a big grin she laughed and said, “I remind myself to get out of my own way and let the board do as much of the work as possible!”