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Special Olympics is already known for changing the lives of millions of athletes around the world. That change has now become even stronger since the Healthy Athletes program was introduced at the 2001 State Summer Games, changing the lives of athletes who have had minimal or no access to basic health care in the past.

Explore the different Disciplines

Fit Feet Fun Fitness Health Promotion Healthy Hearing MedFest Opening Eyes Special Smiles


The mission of the Special Olympics Healthy Athletes program is to improve, through better health and fitness, each athlete's ability to train and compete in Special Olympics.

Cost to Athletes

The purpose of the initiative is to provide basic healthcare screenings and testing to Special Olympics athletes AT NO COST.

Benefits to Athletes

Statistics show that people with intellectual disabilities often do not receive the healthcare attention they need. Healthy Athletes provides an additional opportunity for increasing the physical fitness of people with intellectual disabilities. Any Special Olympics Wisconsin athletes who has a valid medical form on file is welcome to participate in the Healthy Athletes program even if they are not registered for that particular state tournament.

In 2012, the Special Olympics Wisconsin Healthy Athletes program performed more than 1,800 screenings.


Any SOWI athlete that has a current medical on file with the Special Olympics Wisconsin Headquarters can participate in the Healthy Athletes Program. All athletes with current medicals are encouraged to attend Healthy Athlete screenings even if they are not competing at the tournament where Healthy Athletes is offered!

Thank you to Delta Dental and the Lions Club for making the Healthy Athletes Program possible!

Volunteer Professionals

Thank you to the over 300 professional volunteers who make the Healthy Athletes events possible annually. Volunteers include dentists, dental hygienists, optometrists, opticians, audiologists, physical therapists, podiatrists, physicians, nurses, physical therapy assistants, pharmacists, health educators, students and nutritionists from all over the state.

SOWI would also like to thank the following professionals for volunteering their time and expertise to be clinical directors for the Special Olympics Wisconsin’s Healthy Athletes program:

Clinical Directors

- Anne Hvisdak, RDH, CDHC – Special Smiles Clinical Director
- Kellye Knueppel, OD, FCOVD – Opening Eyes Clinical Director
- Lois Harrison, PT – Fun Fitness Clinical Director
- Diane Isnard, PT – Fun Fitness Clinical Director
- Dr. David Henry – Health Hearing Clinical Director
- Dr. Birute Balciunas – Fit Feet Clinical Director
- Judy Stych, RN, CDDN – Health Promotions Clinical Director
- Linda Peterson, RD, CD, MPH – Healthy Promotions Clinical Director
- Leah Ederer, MD – SOWI Medical Advisor for Healthy Promotions
- Michael Clark, MD – MedFest Clinical Director
- Dr. Warren LeMay, DDS, MPH - Special Smiles Clinical Director
- Sharri Crowe, RDH, BSDH, MS - Special Smiles Clinical Director
- Pradeep Bhagavatula, DDS, MPH, MS - Special Smiles Clinical Director
- Jane Elliott, MS, CCC-A - Healthy Hearing Clinical Director
- Tami Gumz, AuD, CCC-SLP/A - Healthy Hearing Clinical Director
- Eileen Sabel, RDH AAS - Special Smiles Clinical Director

Lions Club

Since 2001, the Lions Club International Foundation's generous support has made it possible to expand Special Olympics' Opening Eyes initiative globally. The contribution not only maintains and improves all aspects of the initiative, but also helps provide volunteer support to the organization.

For more information on the Healthy Athletes program, contact

Melissa Schoenbrodt
Phone: 608-442-5676

Healthy Communities

The Vision

To create communities where Special Olympics athletes and others with an intellectual disability have the same access to health and wellness resources – and can attain the same level of good health – as all community members and where there is no “wrong door” for someone with an intellectual disability to walk through.

The Project Goal

To reduce disparities in health status and increase access to community health resources for Special Olympics athletes and others with ID.

Driving It Local: Healthy Communities

In September 2012, it was announced that the Golisano Foundation gifted $12 million to Special Olympics Inc. to extend the scope and reach of health programing to our athletes. Special Olympics Wisconsin (SOWI) was one of fourteen Special Olympics Programs worldwide selected to implement Healthy Communities Demonstration Projects (Healthy Communities) through a grant process allocating the gift.

The Special Olympics Healthy Communities Project is a three-year initiative concluding in July 2015, with an expectation to find sustainable partnerships to continue and expand the initiative following its conclusion. It serves to raise awareness around the issue of health disparities facing people with ID, foster development focused on delivering care to people with ID, and ultimately create communities where Special Olympics athletes and others with ID have the same access to health and wellness resources and can attain the same level of good health as others. At a recent workshop, Ann Costello, Director of the Golisano Foundation, shared Tom Golisano’s belief that “If the athletes aren’t the best they can be (in regards to their health), then we’ve missed the mark.” She went on to say that if an athlete can’t see the finish line, can’t hear their coach or the starting gun, or isn’t healthy enough to participate in sports, then why are we here?

The Healthy Communities plan includes priorities and targets for Healthy Athletes at a local level; to improve the sustainability of our local Healthy Athletes programming, to increase its local impact, and to enhance its relevance to local health issues. As a result, Special Olympics Wisconsin is committed to financially and administratively supporting relevant projects/events organized by local Agencies. Examples of local Healthy Community Projects may include, but are not limited, to:

  • Family Health Forums – Athletes/ Coaches/ Caregivers participate in opportunities that provide direct access to relevant health care information and resources.
  • Community Wellness Opportunities – Athletes participate in classes at a local fitness center, join a walking club, take part in a community garden.
  • Special Olympics Wellness Opportunities – Athletes participate in Special Olympics Walking Clubs, Cooking Classes, Weight-loss Classes

Healthy Communities Cooking Series

Oven Safety

Snack Recipe

Cajun Chicken Dinner Recipe

Flatbread Pizza Recipe

Fruit Quesadilla Recipe

For more information:
We would love to hear from you. If you have questions or have a Healthy Communities Project idea, please contact Healthy Community Project Director, Jessica Chuckel at or by calling (715)803-4931.

Healthy Habits


The mission of the Special Olympics Wisconsin Healthy Habits initiative is to improve each athlete's ability to train and compete in Special Olympics by providing them with resources to advance their health, fitness and overall quality of life. By teaching preventative care practices, Healthy Habits reinforces the importance of developing a healthy lifestyle and integrating healthy choices into an athlete’s daily routine.

Cost to Athletes

The program provides health education and related products and services to Special Olympics Wisconsin athletes at no cost.

At an event athletes are supplied with resources related to the Healthy Habit and instructed on ways to develop the habit.

Benefits to Athletes

Statistics reveal that individuals with intellectual disabilities often do not receive the healthcare attention they need. Healthy Habits provides an additional opportunity to provide health education and awareness to individuals with intellectual disabilities.

Healthy Habits provides athletes with resources related to each habit as well as education on how to develop these health and wellness habits. A Special Olympics Wisconsin local tournament may offer one or more Healthy Habits education topics. Through Healthy Habits, athletes may receive free blood pressure screenings as well as height and weight checks. They may also learn how to make healthy eating choices, prevent the spread of germs, and interpret their blood pressure and weight results. Other Healthy Habits topics teach athletes proper oral health, sun safety and physical fitness.


Any SOWI athlete that has a current medical on file with the Special Olympics Wisconsin Headquarters is welcome to participate in the Healthy Habits program. All athletes with a valid medical are encouraged to attend Healthy Habits screenings even if they are not competing at a tournament where Healthy Habits is taking place!

For more information, contact:
Melissa Schoenbrodt
Phone: (608)442-5676


SO FIT! is a program designed to provide community wellness opportunities for Special Olympics Wisconsin (SOWI) athletes to participate in endurance sports, set and achieve goals, and be recognized for their accomplishments. The program promotes community-based training, with goals ranging from simply competing in a 5K run/walk, to running a half marathon and competing in a triathlon. In addition, athletes can train and compete in community events with a non-disabled partner, reaping the rewards of success together. This program applies to individual athletes or relay teams and pertains if the open competition event is endurance by nature.


  • The athlete must be a registered SOWI athlete with a current medical on file to participate.
  • The athlete has agreed to work out at least 1-2 times per week with a trainer.
  • The athlete has agreed to track their progress and submit their training log to SOWI every four weeks.


  • The trainer (coach, *Class A volunteer, family member or friend) will assist athletes in meeting their goals for SO FIT! They will also support the athlete in filling out the training and performance log, if necessary.
  • The trainer will agree to certify the athlete’s progress and verify incentives and/or reimbursement.
*Anyone who has direct contact with athletes or is in a position of authority, supervision or trust of athletes or handles substantial amounts of cash or other assets for Special Olympics needs to be a registered Class A volunteer.


The Recording Process
The training and performance record is designed to be used by the athletes as a log book for recording training progress. A new Training and Performance Record is required every four weeks to document progress and request incentives.

Health Snapshot
A Health Snapshot will provide a quick health evaluation. It is also used to assist in tracking health changes and reveal health issues. Athletes will provide a Health Snapshot at the start of their training and at its conclusion.


Examples may include, but are not limited to:
  • Winter Sports
    • Cross-country Race
    • Snowshoe Race
  • Indoor Sports
    • Stair Climb
  • Summer Sports
    • 5K (Walk or Run)
    • 5 Mile
    • Marathon (Half or Full)
    • Open Water Swim
    • Torch Run
    • Triathlon
    • Triathlon Relay
    • Walk (30 minutes, 3x per week for 8 weeks)
  • Outdoor Sports
    • Mud Run
    • Ride the Drive
    • Bike Race
    • Military Physical Fitness Test
    • Mountain Bike Race


For more information, contact:
Don Wigington
Phone: (608) 828-2622
August 2015
View List of Events
  Sports   Training School
  Fundraising   Athlete Wellness
  Project Unify   Young Athletes
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# Volunteers Needed!
DEAR EDITOR: What Project UNIFY has taught us
2015-03-04 13:51:10 - By: Bari Bates
A letter to the editor of the Mt. Horeb Mail, from Olivia Jones and Grace Rollins. Olivia and Grace are members of the Youth Activation Council and have played a vital role in statewide efforts of inclusion.
Meet Athlete Coach Peter!
2015-02-19 15:07:13 - By: Bari Bates
For the past four years, Peter Annis has stepped into a different role in Special Olympics Wisconsin—he serves as an athlete coach for Shepherds Warhawks basketball team, guiding his team on the court with hands-on drills and teaching them basic techniques.
Windwalkers Celebrates 10 Years!
2015-02-12 11:17:35 - By: Bari Bates
Special Olympics Wisconsin has been working to provide additional access to education and resources for individuals with intellectual disabilities (ID) related to health and wellness activities at a local level through Healthy Communities Mini Projects. Providing access to additional opportunities is nothing new to agency manager, Kathy Gerharz of the Sheboygan Adult Program.
Local Athlete to Participate at X Games in Aspen
2015-01-05 14:45:29 - By: Christina Harris
As one of only 10 Special Olympics athletes, Wisconsin’s own Daina Shilts, 24, was chosen to participate in Special Olympics Unified Snowboarding Races as part of this year’s X Games in Aspen, Colorado on Thursday, January 22 from 3:00 – 4:00 p.m. CST.
MedFest 2014 a great success for athletes, students and volunteers alike
2014-12-17 17:31:24 - By: Bari Bates
On December 6, during Special Olympics Wisconsin’s Northern Fall Sports Tournament, 46 athletes received a free sports physical as part of the fourth annual MedFest event. Volunteer physicians, nurses, physician assistants, and medical students led this free health screening. The screening consists of the following stations: medical history, height and weight, blood pressure, cardiology test, musculoskeletal test, orthopedic tests, abdominal evaluation, and a check-out station.
Featured Family-The Dohertys
2014-12-16 10:35:55 - By: Christina Harris
As children of a former professional soccer player, Ava, Bailey and Cole Doherty are natural athletes. Bailey, 5, was born with Down syndrome and loves to climb, run and jump. That's just her personality. She plays with her older sister Ava, 7, and younger brother Cole, 2, regularly.
Meet Coach Dean Glaze
2014-11-24 14:15:05 - By: Christina Harris
Dean Glaze, a college student at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, volunteered at a Special Olympics tournament as part of an adaptive physical education class in 1979. What began as a class requirement became a passion. Today, he’s a special needs teacher in Neillsville who has travelled across the globe to coach athletes in national and international Special Olympics competitions.
November is National Diabetes Month
2014-11-04 12:47:18 - By: Christina Harris
Diabetes is an ever-growing health concern that affects nearly 30 million children and adults in the U.S. alone. Individuals with intellectual disabilities are at a higher risk for preventable diseases because they often do not receive the healthcare they need, which can be linked to high body mass index, high blood pressure and low activity rates—all contributing factors to the development of Type 2 diabetes. Take simple steps to help lower everyone's risk of diabetes & improve everyday health.
Meet Wisconsin's World Games Delegates
2014-11-04 11:25:07 - By: Christina Harris
Watch out Los Angeles! A few new stars are coming to town. Three Wisconsin athletes, three coaches, two staff members and one Law Enforcement Torch Run® (LETR) Final Leg runner will take center stage when they represent Team USA at the 2015 Special Olympics World Games from July 25-August 2, 2015. Meet your Team USA representatives!
Project UNIFY is for YOU!
2014-11-03 16:22:24 - By: Christina Harris
If you thought you missed your chance to learn more about Project UNIFY at one of the three Leadership Forums, you are in luck, because we recorded one of them!
There's an APP for that!
2014-11-03 16:22:16 - By: Christina Harris
Special Olympics Wisconsin's Healthy Communities is leading the way in providing access to meaningful, relevant health resources and education for athletes and coaches. The use of mobile devices is a revolutionary new platform to share valuable disability and health information. Generally apps may cost a couple of dollars to purchase, however there are also a number of handy free apps available.
World's Largest Truck Convoy raises more than $122,000!
2014-11-03 16:22:09 - By: Christina Harris
On September 20, truckers and law enforcement officials raised a record-shattering $122,000 for Special Olympics Wisconsin at the 10th Annual World’s Largest Truck Convoy® presented by Quad/Graphics and EH Wolf & Sons.
Featured Athlete-Jodi Zimmerman
2014-11-03 11:26:41 - By: Christina Harris
Knocking down pins is Jodi Zimmerman’s idea of a good time. Every Saturday, she polishes her purple bowling ball, ties up her white bowling shoes, rubs her lucky 300 pin for good luck and heads to the alley.
Buy an Icon, Teach Athletes Employability Skills
2014-11-03 11:09:30 - By: Christina Harris
It may just look like a piece of paper, but when you buy an icon at your local Kwik Trip store from November 7 to 20, you are transforming the life of a Special Olympics athlete. Buying an icon not only helps future athletes enjoy gift of sport, it can teach them employability skills needed to join the workforce. Two Kwik Trip employees witnessed these benefits first-hand.
High School Senior Builds Life-Long Friendships through Club Unify
2014-10-30 10:43:44 - By: Maddie Hamburg, Mt. Horeb High School Senior
Club Unify got off to a strong start this school year with students gathering after school to plan for the homecoming parade. We played get-to-know-you games for our new club members, shared snacks and brainstormed ideas about our part of the parade. Our big goal was to stand out to the community so together, we decided to tie-dye T-shirts and wear them in the parade. The week before homecoming, we held another meeting after school and had a tie-dye party. It was a blast!

Contact Us

Special Olympics Wisconsin
2310 Crossroads Drive, Suite 1000
Madison, WI 53718

Send Us a Message
Phone: (608) 222-1324
Toll Free: (800) 552-1324

Created by the Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. Foundation for the benefit of persons with intellectual disabilities