Tom Golisano Gifts $30 Million to Special Olympics to Expand Critical Health Services Globally for People with Intellectual Disabilities

September 22, 2021 Blog, Featured, Press

Madison, WI, September 22, 2021 – Special Olympics International announced last week that it has received its largest single private gift in the organization’s 53-year history. Tom Golisano, Paychex founder, philanthropist and father of a son with an intellectual disability (ID), will provide $30 million, his third major gift to Special Olympics. This funding will expand the Special Olympics Healthy Communities program. Healthy Communities provides health services globally for people with ID, a population that has been critically underserved, especially during the pandemic.

“This new gift comes at a critical time for our global community as we have seen during this pandemic just how little this population has been prioritized,” said Dr. Alicia Bazzano, Special Olympics Chief Health Officer.

People with intellectual disabilities die on average 16-20 years sooner than the general population. More often than not, these deaths are preventable and result from treatable conditions, like seizures and heart disease. During the pandemic many people with intellectual disabilities have not had access to critical COVID-19 care and resources like ventilators and vaccines.

“Since 2013, Special Olympics Wisconsin has conducted 12,675 health screenings in eight disciplines. In addition, over 1,500 health care students and providers were trained in providing quality and accessible care to their patients with intellectual disabilities throughout the state,” said Melissa Schoenbrodt, Senior Director of Health Programs for Special Olympics Wisconsin. Melissa added, By investing in our Healthy Communities, Mr. Golisano will allow us to continue our critical health programming and prioritize the health needs of people with intellectual disabilities.”

Over the past five years, in partnership with the Golisano Foundation, Special Olympics’ Healthy Communities has conducted 700,000 athlete health screenings nationally – double the number in the previous five years – and offered follow-up care in the communities that decreased urgent referral needs by half. Healthy Communities added 150,000 athletes to fitness and health programs, decreasing their blood pressure, improving health outcomes and potentially adding years to their lives. More than 150,000 health care providers were trained in 60 countries, and 130 health professional schools now have inclusive health curricula to train students on ID. Special Olympics has also partnered with many organizations, including foundations, governments, universities, and philanthropists to contribute to Healthy Communities programming.

Over the next five years, Special Olympics will move the world closer to inclusion in health care for people with intellectual disabilities through multiple key strategic actions including:

  • Reaching three million in-person and virtual health screenings in over 100 countries and ensuring follow-up care is received.
  • Improving the overall health and fitness of 600,000 athletes.
  • Reaching 650,000 young children with intellectual disabilities and their families – to provide them with early intervention services to enable them to walk, run, skip and play earlier.
  • Creating the Golisano Virtual University to provide training to 100,000 more health care professionals, enabling them to treat people with intellectual disabilities.
  • Creating the first-ever Global Report on the Health of People with Intellectual Disabilities – this report will evaluate disparities across health systems to develop inclusive policies and practices in target countries.

As the leading advocate for health of those with intellectual disabilities, Special Olympics is opening access to life-changing health care for this population. Since 2012, Tom Golisano and his foundation have prioritized the health needs of people with ID, donating previous gifts totaling $37 million to help achieve health equity for people with ID all over the world, beginning with the launch of Special Olympics Healthy Communities.

“I am pleased to continue financial support for Special Olympics’ extraordinary health work, which is giving people with intellectual and developmental disabilities improved access to health services and the opportunity to live happier, more productive lives,” said Tom Golisano.

“Tom and Foundation Executive Director Ann Costello have been visionaries in reducing health disparities and improving the quality of life for people with different abilities,” said Dr. Timothy Shriver, Chairman, Special Olympics. “They have been consistent and outspoken in their commitment to the physical and social-emotional health of those with intellectual disabilities. We thank them for their leadership, partnership and passion for making health care more equitable for our population.”

Special Olympics Health, made possible by the Golisano Foundation, and in the United States in collaboration with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is creating a world where people with intellectual disabilities have every opportunity to be healthy and can take full

advantage of the same health programs and services available to people without intellectual disabilities. The organization is investing in a life-span approach, serving as health partners for every person with an intellectual disability throughout their life.


About Special Olympics Wisconsin

Special Olympics Wisconsin is a statewide organization of the Special Olympics movement that unleashes the transformative power and joy of sports everyday around the world. Through work in sports, health, education and community building, Special Olympics has been empowering people with intellectual disabilities for more than 50 years, leading to a more welcoming and inclusive society. With the support of donors, coaches and volunteers, Special Olympics Wisconsin provides year-round sports training and more than 100 athletic competitions in 19 Olympic-type sports to over 9,000 individuals with intellectual disabilities. Join our online community by following us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram! For more information, visit or call (608) 222-1324.


About Tom Golisano and the Golisano Foundation

Tom Golisano — entrepreneur, philanthropist, and civic leader — is the founder and chairman of the board of Paychex, Inc., a leading national provider of payroll, human resource, and benefit outsourcing solutions with more than 14,000 employees and 100 office locations nationwide serving more than a half-million small and medium-sized businesses. Tom’s vision, perseverance, and action have left an indelible mark on a broad spectrum of issues that touch our lives – in business, healthcare, education, voter policies, politics, and tax reform. His personal philanthropic contributions to hospitals, educational institutions, and other organizations exceed $330 million. A fierce advocate for dignity and inclusion, Tom Golisano applied his pioneering spirit to establish the Golisano Foundation to help make the world a better place for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Founded in 1985, the Golisano Foundation is now one of the largest private foundations in the United States devoted exclusively to supporting programs for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. With $45 million in gross assets, it awards more than $2 million in grants annually “Imagining the Possibilities,” advocating for families, fighting for their dignity, and giving people with IDD the opportunity to thrive in their communities.

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