Special Olympics Minnesota

Special Olympics Healthy Athletes® offers free health screenings and education to Special Olympics athletes in a welcoming, fun environment.

Despite a mistaken belief that people with intellectual disabilities receive the same or better healthcare than others, they typically receive sub-standard care or virtually no healthcare at all.

Healthy Athletes is not only a program for athletes but, through training and hands-on experience at screenings, it is a program for healthcare students and professionals to increase knowledge of best practices in caring for and communicating with people with intellectual disabilities.

Notably, trained healthcare providers demonstrate improved awareness and self-efficacy in providing care for and communicating with patients with ID.

Some of the volunteer opportunities include:

MedFest (sports physical) 
Provides the physical exam that all athletes need prior to participating in Special Olympics sports. Screenings assess blood pressure, temperature, pulse, height, weight, body mass index, vision, hearing, medical history, potential medication side effects and general physical health. It is sometimes the first exposure athletes have to medical care.

Fit Feet (podiatry) 
Evaluate and screen foot and ankle deformities of athletes and to provide education in proper footwear and care of the feet and toes.

Health Promotion (nutrition, bone health, smoking cessation and sun safety) 
Health Promotion focuses on educating athletes about healthy lifestyles and the facilitation of healthy choices. Health Promotion mainly focuses on nutrition and exercise, as well as bone health, smoking cessation and sun safety using interactive educational activities and motivational information to encourage behavior change.

Strong Minds (mental health) 
An interactive learning activity focused on developing adaptive coping skills. Athletes try a few different active coping strategies as they move through the stations. Before exiting, athletes identify the strategies they like best and volunteers provide them with visual reminders to use tools in competition and in daily life.

Opening Eyes (vision) 
A global partnership between Special Olympics and Lions Club International brings vision screenings to athletes worldwide. At Opening Eyes events, Special Olympics athletes receive extensive vision and eye health tests; refraction for those requiring further screening; prescription eyeglasses, if needed; prescription protective sports eyewear, if appropriate; and referral for follow-up care.

Jeff Prendergast
Health Programs Coordinator