Family Health Forum Brings Communities Together

May 14, 2013

“On April 17, Special Olympics Wisconsin (SOWI) families and their community members gathered to broaden their knowledge of health and wellness and learn more about the support SOWI provides to people with intellectual disabilities (ID) at a Family Health Forum in Sparta.

“The main reason [I went to] the Family Health Forum was to educate and open my kids eyes to those with intellectual disabilities and also to have us, as a family, volunteer,” he said.

SOWI offered a variety of activities and learning opportunities, including a session about Sensory Processing Disorder led by Niki Froelke, COTA/L and owner of Sensory Lovin’ Momma in La Crosse.

Youth and individuals with ID in attendance discussed the Spread the Word to End the Word™ campaign (which seeks to eliminate the use of word “retard” or “retarted”) and helped brainstorm activities to engage youth at Fort McCoy’s upcoming summer camp.

For Becky Walley, a Child, Youth, and School Services Outreach Director, School Liaison Officer and mother of two, the R-word discussion was very beneficial.

“I thought it would be a good experience for my older child to get involved and learn about helping/supporting the Spread the Word to End the Word campaign,” she said.

“My kids had educated me earlier in the year when I did use the R-word, so it was good that there was education on that subject at the forum,” agreed Fitzgibbons.

Walley and Fitzgibbons both agree it is important for military families to be aware of the resources SOWI provides.

“The military is not immune to intellectual disabilities. Education and providing lines of support benefits everyone,” said Fitzgibbons.

Family Health Forums are part of the Healthy Communities Demonstration Project, a three year initiative funded by a grant from the Golisano Foundation in late 2012.  The SOWI Healthy Communities plan includes priorities and targets Healthy Athletes ® at a local level, ultimately creating 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.

SOWI will offer Family Health Forums for years to come so check the Calendar of Events on the website regularly for upcoming opportunities.  If you’d like a Family Health Forum near you, contact Jenn O’Brian at

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