Nearly 200 members of the Greater Milwaukee Area gathered at the Woman’s Club of Wisconsin on October 24 to hear about Special Olympics Wisconsin’s Healthy Athletes program and the impact it has on athletes’ lives.
They came together as part of the annual Champions Together Breakfast fundraiser. Since this year’s breakfast highlighted Special Olympics Wisconsin’s Healthy Athletes program, members of the local medical community were invited to attend. The program featured guest speakers like Special Olympics Wisconsin President and CEO Kathleen Roach, Opening Eyes Clinical Director Dr. Kellye Knueppel, Chairman of the Board of Directors Vince Vitrano, and Special Olympics athlete Cindy Bentley. Together, they helped raise nearly $50,000 for Healthy Athletes during the fundraiser.
The speakers gave an overview of Healthy Athletes, a program featuring free clinics in eight disciplines that cover many facets of health and wellness. Historically, people with ID have lacked access to health services in comparison to the general population. Healthy Athletes has helped Special Olympics work toward a world where people with ID have the same opportunities to be healthy as anyone else.
They also discussed compelling results from a recent study conducted in collaboration with the Waisman Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the Wisconsin Department of Health Services about the difference the program makes in the lives of the athletes who participate in Healthy Athletes screenings.
“Our programming – and especially our Healthy Athletes programming – leads to improved health for our athletes.” – Special Olympics Wisconsin President and CEO Kathleen Roach
The research from this study showed that Special Olympics Wisconsin athletes have fewer medical and pharmacy claims and lower claim amounts than individuals with ID in Wisconsin who do not participate in Special Olympics.
Even more remarkably, athletes who participate in Healthy Athletes had even fewer claims and lower claim amounts than athletes who don’t take advantage of the program.
As Special Olympics Wisconsin President and CEO Kathleen Roach said in her speech during the breakfast: “The data from this study bears out something that we’ve already known for some time at Special Olympics Wisconsin: our programming – and especially our Healthy Athletes programming – leads to improved health for our athletes.”
Dr. Knueppel, who has been the clinical director of the Opening Eyes discipline for almost 20 years, shared some of her experiences with athletes and the joy she gets from helping athletes see better. She talked about how Healthy Athletes has become an important part of many athletes’ routine medical care. She also talked about the need that still existed in the Special Olympics Wisconsin community.
“Healthy Athletes is an incredible program that touches so many lives but we need to reach more athletes and provide more services.” – Dr. Kellye Knueppel
“While almost 2,000 Healthy Athletes screenings in a year is awesome, we can do better,” Dr. Knueppel said. “Remember, there are nearly 9,000 athletes participating in Special Olympics Wisconsin who are eligible to take advantage of these free screenings.”
Dr. Knueppel concluded her speech by informing the audience that just by attending the Champions Together Breakfast, they’re already helping to make a difference in the lives of Special Olympics Wisconsin athletes.
“Healthy Athletes is an incredible program that touches so many lives but we need to reach more athletes and provide more services. By being here today, you’re helping us take that first step toward making sure more athletes are indeed Healthy Athletes,” Dr. Knueppel said.