Athlete Health Messengers – Leaders in Wellness

June 20, 2024

To eliminate exclusion, we must involve everyone in crafting solutions to different problems. Individuals with intellectual disabilities are actively shaping our approach to healthcare. The Special Olympics Wisconsin Health Messenger program exemplifies this principle of inclusion. To enhance public health programs, reform health systems, and foster community support for individuals with intellectual disabilities, it is imperative that they assume leadership roles within the healthcare system.

Special Olympics Wisconsin (SOWI) Health Messengers are athletes trained to lead in health and wellness. They serve as educators, advocates, and role models within both their Special Olympics communities and the broader society. These individuals are guiding their teams, families, friends, and communities towards healthier lifestyles while championing inclusive policies in healthcare, wellness services, education, and resources tailored for people with intellectual disabilities.

Eight Athlete Health Messengers from around Wisconsin actively served in important volunteer roles at the SOWI Spring Games. They supported differing health activities: :

  • Performance Station
  • Health Information
  • Healthy Hearing
  • FUNfitness
  • Special Smiles (Dental Care)
  • Strong Minds (Mental Wellness)

Roles included helping at the Healthy Athletes check-in tables (Special Smiles and Healthy Hearing), providing peer-to-peer education (both at the Performance Station and at Strong Minds), and recording the health screening information for the volunteers (FUNfitness).

“I loved helping out at Spring Games and encouraging athletes to take the next Health Messenger class,” said Kolin Schmitz, Athlete Health Messenger for Special Olympics Wisconsin. “Being a part of these classes has helped me learn more from my peers and get to know so many people in Special Olympics. I volunteer in my hometown a lot and being involved as a Health Messenger helped me volunteer at a bigger event with more confidence.”

“I always love sharing my health story,” explained Athlete Leader and Health Messenger Heather Holland.  “Being a health messenger is extremely important to me. I have a health story to match anything you need like a story about eyes, weight loss, mental health etc. Being a health messenger and an athlete leader helps me step up and support Special Olympics Wisconsin and fellow athletes.”

“Athletes should be Health Messengers to meet new people, build self-confidence, and help other athletes make healthy choices,” Kolin continued.

For more information on Athlete Health Messengers, contact Kayla Kleinsteiber at kkleinsteiber@specialolympicswisconsin.org, or REGISTER HERE for the next workshop.


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