Walmart Foundation Boosts Support for Special Olympics Health Programs with $500,000 in Grants

January 26, 2011

For Immediate Release

Funding Represents a Five-fold Increase from Previous Year

Washington, D.C. – Long-time Special Olympics supporter the Walmart Foundation has awarded $500,000 to Special Olympics in order to maintain the Healthy Athletes® initiatives run by its state Programs across the U.S., as well as enhance the quality and capacity of health-related events. Designed to help Programs purchase health equipment and provide products like hearing aids and toothbrushes to athletes free of charge, these “relief grants” will allow Special Olympics to improve the health of thousands of people with intellectual disabilities.

“After hearing about the program, I decided I needed to lose weight and get healthy.  I began eating healthy, exercising, and lost 56 pounds.  Because of Walmart’s generosity, athletes like me will have the opportunity to receive free health screenings,” said Raymee Haas, a Special Olympics athlete from Fort Worth, Texas.

Following the economic recession, many U.S. Programs were forced to downsize both staff and services, so the support offered by the Walmart Foundation comes at a crucial time for Special Olympics. Last year, Walmart provided $100,000 in relief funding. Based on the success of Healthy Athletes in 2010, the amount was increased dramatically for 2011.

“The Walmart Foundation is committed to improving the lives of people with disabilities,” said Margaret McKenna, president of the Walmart Foundation.  “Our recent grant to Special Olympics International reinforces that commitment by supporting the Healthy Athletes Program and the important screenings the program provides.”

The need for the Healthy Athletes program is great. People with intellectual disabilities have a greater chance of developing multiple, preventable health conditions.

“Many of our athletes do not have health insurance, and many have lost their jobs. Others arrive at the Healthy Athletes venue with their sneaker soles falling off or their eyeglasses duct-taped together. For many of our participants, this is their first visit to a doctor in years,” said Special Olympics Washington Chairperson Beth Wojick.

In addition to this recent funding, the Walmart Foundation has been an active supporter of Special Olympics at the state and local level, where the vast majority of health screenings are offered to athletes, since 2008.  The Foundation also provided $1.6 million in funding to the 2009 Special Olympics World Winter Games in Boise, Idaho, where more than 2,000 athletes from over 90 countries around the world were screened in 6 disciplines through the Healthy Athletes program.

“We are extremely pleased to continue and expand our partnership with the Walmart Foundation in this way,” said Dr. Timothy Shriver, Chairman and CEO of Special Olympics. “Without our relationships with good corporate citizens like Walmart, our programs would be unable to provide the health services our athletes desperately need.”

Officially launched in 1997, the Special Olympics Healthy Athletes program has provided more than 1 million free health screenings and education to athletes in seven areas – vision, hearing, dental, podiatry, physical therapy, sport physicals and healthy habits. Offered in more than 100 countries, Healthy Athletes has made Special Olympics the largest global public health organization dedicated to serving people with intellectual disabilities.

About Special Olympics:
Special Olympics is an international non-profit organization that changes lives by encouraging and empowering people with intellectual disabilities, promoting acceptance for all, and fostering communities of understanding and respect worldwide. Founded in 1968 by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the Special Olympics movement has grown from a few hundred athletes to nearly 3.5 million athletes in over 170 countries in all regions of the world, providing year-round sports training, athletic competition health screenings, and other related programs.  Special Olympics now takes place every day, changing the lives of people with intellectual disabilities in all regions of the world and in community playgrounds and ball fields in every small neighborhood’s backyard.  Special Olympics provides people with intellectual disabilities continuing opportunities to realize their potential, develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage and experience joy and friendship. Visit Special Olympics at www.specialolympics.org.

About Philanthropy at Walmart:
Walmart and the Walmart Foundation are proud to support the charitable causes that are important to customers and associates in their own neighborhoods. The Walmart Foundation funds initiatives focused on education, workforce development, economic opportunity, environmental sustainability, and health and wellness. From Feb. 1, 2009 through Jan. 31, 2010, Walmart and the Walmart Foundation gave more than $512 million in cash and in-kind gifts globally, $467 million of which was donated in the U.S. To learn more, visit www.walmartfoundation.org

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CONTACT:
Karl Hejlik
Special Olympics Inc.
+1 (202) 824-0308     
khejlik@specialolympics.org

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