By Melanie Barrios
One might recognize Saskia Vogt from a cover of a magazine or from competitions. Make no mistake, Saskia Vogt is a star! Athlete, model, scholar, is there anything 14-year-old Saskia can’t do? The answer is no. Saskia does not miss an opportunity to shine. Her life motto is “I can do anything!” and there’s no denying that.
The Vogt’s faced what many parents face upon bringing a child into the world—the unknown. The only difference was reacting to news they were not prepared for and lacked information on, in addition to finding a community for Saskia.
Being born with Down syndrome did not rule out Saskia’s abilities and dreams. At 5 years old, Will Vogt and his wife had Saskia join Special Olympics after witnessing the positive energy at a Young Athletes event. What the family loved most about the program was the family atmosphere among the athletes—different people from varying circumstances came together for the love of sports.
At 8 years old, Saskia and her family joined Special Olympics full-time. Will got involved with the Santa Clarita Leadership Council and in 2013, joined the SOSC Board of Directors. He started on the Programs committee and had an opportunity to lead an executive committee for HR and Leadership Enhancement before becoming Secretary of the Board. The Vogt family has been highly involved with Special Olympics and hopes to continue their involvement as they have witnessed the positive impact that Special Olympics has had on Saskia and their family.
“I love getting to see her joy and build confidence over time, and see her explore and try new things,” Will states. “I love all the friends she makes through Special Olympics.”
Saskia notices that her strength and confidence grow the more time she spends in Special Olympics. She loves to participate in bowling, golf, karate, and yoga, but her favorite sport is track. She proudly represents Team Glendale! “Special Olympics helps me because it gives me confidence, stay fit, gives me lots of friends, sense of being on a team, and opportunity to compete,” Saskia says proudly. Competing is second nature to Saskia and nothing propels her to do her best more than hearing the cheers from the fans and wanting to make her coaches and family proud.
Saskia wants to teach others that people with Down syndrome are loving and fun to be around, and an added bonus, make the best of friends to have. Her upbeat personality is fun to have around, but this does not mean that the Vogt’s have not faced challenges. “One thing we learned as parents is that everyone has challenges, and it does not matter if they have a child with Down syndrome or a child with any special needs, or a typically developing child…everyone has challenges,” Will states. “We spend a lot of the time focused on things that might be more routine milestones, but when you get it [like walking or talking], the joy that we feel is sweeter.”
Saskia and Will hope that more communities will focus on inclusion, learning, and being more supportive of those with Down syndrome. Holding people with Down syndrome to the same expectations as others is encouraged, as they are capable of leading productive and healthy lives.
As far as her journey in Special Olympics, Saskia hopes to continue flourishing and sharing her journey with all who will listen. Her next goal is to become a Special Olympics Global Messenger.