MISSOULA — It's one thing to partake in Special Olympics, but another to run your own events and give back.
And that is exactly what couple Hilary Benjamin and Coley Stensgar-Maul have done in Missoula.
"A lot better, because it's like pay it forward," Stensgar-Maul said. "They helped me get healthy, so I'm going to help other people get healthy."
Benjamin and Stensgar-Maul are healthy athlete messengers for Special Olympics Montana, titles earned through volunteering and training, and their roles range across many activities and responsibilities.
"I did a walking club last year, and it was a lot of fun," Benjamin said. "Me and Coley, we're healthy athlete messengers. We just talk about drinking enough water, making sure everybody's hydrated and making sure everybody eats healthy foods, and then I did a 5K walk around this neighborhood. It was a lot of fun."
Benjamin's 5K last summer was the opportunity to put on an event for her friends and teammates, while helping them get ready for spring and summer competitions.
"Just having everybody there competing in the 5K and stuff," Benjamin said about it's impact. "Some of them couldn't walk. There was a walking one so people who can't run, they can walk, and then some of them who can run, they ran."
Stensgar-Maul, meanwhile, gave multiple talks to the group about the importance of nutrition and exercise as he educated the group and also led by example.
"Like basically try to be the good leader and not bring pop for example to the health talk," he said with a laugh.
Special Olympics has played a key role in both of their lives.
The two have been dating since 2010, it's been an activity the duo can do together, as Benjamin has participated in Special Olympics for over 30 years, while Stensgar-Maul joined in 2010 when they began dating.
For Coley, it added a lifestyle change he appreciates
"(It's) great because they're all supportive about people with disabilities," he said. "They're all inclusive. All the camaraderie, all the friendships and all of the events changing over the years sometimes."
And competing together makes every year that much more special.
"It's amazing, yeah," Benjamin added. "I love Special Olympics."