A long-standing Hawke's Bay sports coach recognised for her involvement in the Special Olympics has paid tribute to her inspiration behind her 37-year career - her deceased Down syndrome brother.
Margaret Baker has been made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit (ONZM) for her service to the Special Olympics in the Queen's Birthday Honours.
Baker, of Frimley, has been involved in the Special Olympics for close to 40 years after her brother Grant began participating in athletics and swimming in 1984.
Grant passed away in 1999, but Baker continues his legacy within the Special Olympics community to this day.
"I began giving a hand at swimming training, but carried on as the improvements were so inspiring - I loved it," she said.
"It would've been lovely to share this with Grant but I have plenty of other athletes, friends and family I can share this honour with."
Baker, who still holds the position as club swimming coach to this day, is also credited with the introduction of golf to Special Olympics Hawke's Bay a decade ago.
Golf is one of five sports the organisation participates in today alongside swimming, bocce, ten pin bowling and football, with over 100 athletes aged eight and above.
The new MNZM said she hoped her accolade will lift the profile of the local branch of the organisation and encourage people to get involved as athletes, coaches and in administrative roles.
"This movement gives so many people with an intellectual disability the opportunity to train and compete, plus they're able to mix with their peers and make friends," she said.
"Seeing athletes attain their goals and delight at the medals and ribbons they earn makes it worth every minute you give."
Over the past 37 years, Baker has worked as a sports coordinator, fundraiser and coach for swimming, golf, bowls and bocce, as well as a team manager at five Special Olympics New Zealand's National Games.
Special Olympics Hawke's Bay chair Jack Lowe said Baker is "the heart of Special Olympics".
"I can't put into words how much she's done for our club," he said. "We wouldn't be here today if it wasn't for her.
"Special Olympics is only one of many things she's involved with and she does it all from the heart."
Despite her personal accolade, Baker remains focused on her role and encouraged the public to back the Hawke's Bay athletes at the upcoming New Zealand Special Olympics Summer Games in Hamilton in December.
"The improvement of athlete's fitness, skills and general merging with the mainstream athletes and public over the years has been amazing to witness," she said.
"But we are flat out training, registering and fundraising so our team of 46 athletes and 16 coaches and supervisors can attend in December."