Healthy athletes are competitive athletes. That’s one reason all our largest Special Olympics New York events include a variety of free health screenings and health performance stations for athletes. Both were offered at our recent Summer Games in Dutchess County, benefitting hundreds.

Nearly 600 athletes received free screenings for hearing, vision, footwear, and mental health. In addition, more than 100 toothbrushes and tubes of toothpaste were distributed by our friends in dental care, and more than 50 athletes received new glasses, sport goggles, and sunglasses—needed prescriptions they would otherwise not receive. That’s right—athletes receive glasses on the spot!

Special Olympics Healthy Athletes screenings change lives. A female athlete who was always finishing in second place, for example, started earning gold once an eye care clinician realized she had been following the person in front of her. And then there are athletes like Mame Mdiaye, who was able to hear for the first time after a 2019 World Games screening.

More than 400 athletes also circulated through our all-new performance stations at Summer Games, where they received items and advice for optimum performance tailored to their sport of choice. Performance station sponsors gave away 400 new pairs of socks, 450 water bottles, and 450 shirts.

Now in its 19th year, the Healthy Athletes program here in New York has provided screenings for more than 18,000 athletes across the state and hosted nearly 400 screening events. We also kicked off 2019 with the launch of #Fit5NY, a five-week program that promotes a healthy lifestyle through consistent physical activity, nutrition, and hydration—and brings our community together to support one another via social media. (Join #Fit5NY here!)

There’s a second reason this initiative is so important, and that’s the training Special Olympics New York provides to volunteer clinicians, health professionals, and students. Through Healthy Athletes, we’ve helped more than 350 health professionals gain experience in working with people with intellectual disabilities, a skill that is scarcely included in traditional medical school curriculum.

In fact, people with intellectual disabilities often lack access to quality health care that meets their needs. Special Olympics athletes report difficulties in comprehending medical information from health care professionals, and vice versa. Healthy Athletes is designed to address and bring light to these issues.

Our president and CEO, Stacey Hengsterman, has made the expansion of Healthy Athletes a priority for the organization as we near our 50th anniversary in 2020.

If you would like to support these initiatives, please reach out to us for more information or consider making a donation today.