Something special is going on

MARK PETERSON works with his Special Olympics basketball players on March 12. Peterson has been coaching Special Olympics athletes since 2017. Submitted photo

Catching up with…Mark Peterson, 1986 TAHS grad

By Per Peterson
Special Olympics holds a special place in Mark Peterson’s heart. A very special place.

Peterson, a 1986 graduate of Tracy Area High School, and his wife, Anita, are parents of two special needs children — Olivia and Isaiah — and a little more than seven years ago, a conversation over Box Car Days weekend with friend and childhood neighbor, Eric Peterson (no relation), after the passing of Mark’s mother lit something of a fire under Mark to get involved with the organization. The latter had been working with Special Olympics for a number of years and had a feeling his high school pal would enjoy doing the same.

“He knew about our kids and their disabilities and always took the time to ask about them when we saw each other,” Mark said. “He always shared with me how much fun he had working with Special Olympics. He said to bring Isaiah up to a practice and just try it.”

That was the last conversation the two friends would have, as Eric passed away a couple months later. Needless to say, Mark took their conversation to heart.

“I wish he was still around so I could have the opportunity to coach in Special Olympics against him — that would have been fun,” said Mark, who got involved with Special Olympics just a few years later in 2017. Isaiah was on the adapted soccer and softball teams for his high school, and through some other parents on the team Mark had heard about a floor hockey team the Prior Lake/Savage delegation of Special Olympics had.

“Eric told me how much fun he had working with Special Olympics, and he described to me how he could not wait for practices, as it just made his day to watch these athletes try so hard and enjoy being on a team,” Mark said. “Also, he told me this statement which I never forgot: ‘Mark, I do not have kids of my own, but I consider these kids as my family.’ I took Isaiah to a floor hockey practice and helped assist a little bit, and driving home I thought to myself, ‘Eric was right.’”

Olivia is now 23, and Isaiah is 20 — both are adopted. The Petersons brought Olivia home when she was 2 days old and adopted Isaiah when he was just 10 months into his life.

Peterson, the son of Clint and the late Margaret Peterson, graduated from St. Cloud State University in 1990 with a Business Management degree. He started working for a franchisee of Hardee’s right out of college and was an assistant manager in Duluth for a year before being promoted to general manager and running the Hardee’s in Ashland, WI, for nearly five years.

Peterson moved back to Minnesota when his wife, Anita, got a job with the Buffalo School District working as a Speech Language Pathologist in the elementary school in Montrose. Back in Minnesota, he started working for a former vice-president of the Hardee’s franchisee in a new restaurant called Bixby’s Bagels — a combination bagel/coffee/sandwich/soup restaurant.

He was with that company for nearly seven years, helping train staff on new store openings and ultimately running a store in downtown Minneapolis. In 2004, he transitioned to the golf industry when he joined Golfsmith. He was general manager of the Minnetonka and then the Edina store for about 10 years.

“I had many Tracy Country Club members and other area contacts come and buy new clubs and golf gear from my team at the stores over the years,” he said.

In January 2017, Peterson started working in supply chain/logistics for Globaltranz; he is an Account Team Lead, and his team moves full truckload freight around the country for large companies. Since March 2020 his downtown Minneapolis office of more than 100 people has been working remotely due to the pandemic. He and Anita, who have been married for nearly 32 years, have lived in Shakopee since 1997.

See this week’s Headlight Herald for more on this article.