The Special Olympics Healthy Communities initiative takes the principles of the Healthy Athletes program and expands them from a series of single events to a steady presence in the lives of our athletes and their families at a local level. Special Olympics Wisconsin is proud to be one of the first programs to launch the program, globally, through a grant provided by the Golisano Foundation.
To create communities where Special Olympics athletes and others with an intellectual disability have the same access to health and wellness resources as all community members.
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