CENTER — Former Center teacher Honey Stecken, her husband Scott and family are overwhelmed by the kindness of a Center Parks and Recreation coach and the Del Norte Tigers team for helping their pre-schooler Maren achieve her soccer dream.
Maren, who attends Center pre-school, was born with a rare metabolic disorder — propionic acidemia — and is the only survivor of the condition left in Colorado. Usually children with the disorder die within their first five years. Maren’s big brother plays soccer and she is a soccer fan, so what Center coach Miguel Rios and his family did for her recently really made Maren’s day.
Rios purchased a special soccer jersey with the number “1” and Maren’s name on it, a pee-wee soccer ball, shin guards and made Maren an honorary team captain. During a recent game with the Del Norte Tigers Rios, with the help of Del Norte coach Gina Randolph, allowed Maren to dribble the soccer ball between the two teams and make a goal.
“She dribbles really well and the team acted like they were trying to catch her,” Stecken said, smiling at the memory. “When she made it all the way through and shot a goal the goalie dove, landed on the ground, missed the shot and everyone cheered.”
Stecken noted that Rios and his family did it all out of the “goodness of their hearts,” just for Maren. “The way he carried it out and coordinated everything quietly” with no showboating was really gratifying, she said. It means a lot to her family because their journey with Maren has been a difficult, touch-and-go affair since her birth.
Maren must be on a special diet and cannot eat many things that appeal to five-year-olds. She also must be very careful, especially during cold and flu season, not to be exposed to those with viruses and other conditions because her immune system is fragile.
Stecken say it is difficult for others who don’t have to deal with these problems to understand the family’s dilemma, but says she has been awed at the love and support she has experienced in the Center community. Where some might be leery of taking care of Maren with her many challenges, Stecken said Rios and his family has said they would be glad to watch her any time.
“We owe a lot to this community,” Stecken said. “Center gives back, and it’s with no barriers.” She commended the Center Schools’ staff for their commitment to Maren, also the staff at Rio Grande Hospital and San Luis Valley Regional Medical Center for caring for her daughter.
Some of those in the Amish community with children who have the disorder live into their teens and even into adulthood, although medical researchers are not exactly sure why this is so. Even when those suffering with the disorder make into their teens it can be complicated though, Stecken explained, because like all teens, they rebel and like to push boundaries.
This can have devastating effects, since going off the special diet they must be on and not following certain protocols can cause stroke and loss of cognitive function. Stecken does not know what the future will bring but is taking it one day at a time, just enjoying her time with Maren.
“I don’t know what I’d do without this small community connection,” Stecken remarked, emotion in her voice. Typified by the actions of the Rios family, the compassion and the caring means more than she could express.