UNION, Wash. — There's only one thing Mackenzie Wilkes might love more than her job greeting guests and bussing tables at Alderbrook Resort & Spa's restaurant.
"Working like makes me feel great, it's good,” said Wilkes.
That one thing is cheerleading. This 21-year-old woman with Down syndrome has been cheering most of her life.
Aleiha Smith, the manager of the resort’s restaurant, and Mackenzie's boss, had no idea her star employee was a cheerleader — let alone that she had an invitation to participate the upcoming 2022 Special Olympics.
"So I found out about her cheerleading and her Special Olympics opportunity through her needing a scheduling change and of course, we're going to make it happen!” said Smith.
Mackenzie will be representing the Pacific Northwest in the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games in Florida.
It's the first time Cheer has been featured at the games, and Mackenzie is one of only 150 competitors chosen.
"You know, it doesn't surprise me at all," said Smith. "Mackenzie is very outgoing, great with the guests, and always friendly. The team loves working with Mackenzie. She's a team player, so I'm not surprised that she's going to go far with the team that she's on with cheerleading.”
Mackenzie's cheered since childhood and was on the squad at Shelton High School. We asked her to share her secret to cheer success:
"Being a good cheerleader? Work work work so hard, work more, keep going,” she said.
And she has no doubt all that hard work will bring back a medal.
"Oh I'll do it," she declared. "I never back down."
And Mackenzie Wilkes isn’t planning on just any medal — she wants to bring back gold.
This June, when Mackenzie takes those days off, grabs her pom-poms, and heads to Florida, all of her friends, customers, and co-workers at Alderbrook will be excited to cheer her on — at the Special Olympics.
KING 5's Evening celebrates the Northwest. Contact us: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Email.