Special athletes bring joy to all whose lives they touch

haleigh mahiya

By Traci Chapman

Although Mustang’s special athletes have all gone their separate ways for the summer, they carry with them fond memories of their year together and their time in Stillwater at this year’s summer Special Olympics.

Two of those athletes are Mahiya Stephens and Haleigh McCathern. Both girls have their own favorite things to do and ways of looking at the world, but their families say they also have something very much in common – they are loving and giving and go through life with an innate happiness.

Mahiya Stephens

Mahiya is a 13-year-old 7th grader. An enrolled member of the Wichita and Affiliated Tribes of Oklahoma, Mahiya is also Creek and Kiowa. Her name reflects her heritage; Mahiya means “teacher” in Wichita tribal language.

Mahiya loves basketball, spending time with her family and watching her favorite TV shows, Elmo and Barney. A fan of Mexican food, Mahiya loves all-you-can eat queso and chips, as well as going to Johnny Carino’s.

A family of deep faith, Mahiya enjoys attending church, and she loves to go to the park and visit Mustang Public Library, her parents say.

Although Mahiya has participated in bowling for Special Olympics in Mustang, Yukon and Oklahoma City since she was eight – and has won several medals for that sport -  this was her first time attending the Stillwater games. She competed in bocce ball this year.

Mahiya has participated in Special Olympics Bowling here in Mustang, Yukon and OKC area since she became old enough at age 8. However this will be her first year to attend Special Olympics in Stillwater. She will be competing in Bocce Ball. Over the years she has earned many medals in her Bowling sport participation.

Mahiya’s parents are Dr. Lancer and Aietah Stephens; she has a younger sister, Ahdae, and two younger brothers – Tahlee and Waukee.

Mahiya’s health struggles have been difficult at times, but she is resilient and brave, overcoming issues related to her rare chomosomal anomaly, including many surgeries, hospitalizations and sicknesses. Despite these issues, Mahiya is warm and outgoing – as her family says, she never meets a stranger. She lives a life of unconditional love, say her friends and family.

“Mahiya is the Creek word for teacher and is truly fitting for her, she has taught us so much and continues to teach us every day about living a life in love and joy despite what challenges come your way,” her parents say.

Haleigh McCathern

Haleigh is 22 years old and is a 2013 graduate of Mustang Public Schools.

She loves music – all kinds except “sappy ones and loud rock and roll – and is a dancer. She has gone through many CD players and CDs but loves iTunes gift cards.

Haleigh loves to help her dad work with the family’s cows. They are “her” cows and she works the gate to help out.

Haleigh loves to be outdoors and helps her mom with the flowerbeds. She also loves music and swimming. When the family travels, she loves the hotel hot tubs and swimming – at Special Olympics she loves swimming in the hot tub and the annual dance. In school, her favorite thing to do was ride the bus, her mom said.

Haleigh began participating in Special Olympics when she was eight. At that time she would be part of Yukon Schools’ team, and her mom was her coach. After 14 years in Special Olympics – seven of them in Mustang – Haleigh has participated in a variety of events. Her favorite events are the 50-meter dash and softball throw.

Haleigh’s parents are Kim and Lonnie McCathern. She has an older brother, Cole, and a younger brother, Terry.

Haleigh has brought joy to her family her entire life, and her smile lights up anyplace she goes.

“Haleigh has always been known for her smile,” her mom says. “All through school, she would always get awards for ‘Best Smile.’

“She’s a happy girl,” Kim says.