Special Olympics World Games 2019 in Abu Dhabi brought together 7,500 athletes and unified partners to compete at their highest ability and break down barriers to full inclusion. Between competition, athletes attended Healthy Athletes, a free health screening program, to be educated on healthy lifestyle choices and identify problems that may need additional follow-up care.
Special Olympics Healthy Athletes Lions Clubs International Opening Eyes®, was one of seven Healthy Athletes disciplines held at World Games. Opening Eyes provides free eye assessments, prescription eyewear, sunglasses and sports goggles to people with intellectual disabilities. At the end of the 12-step visual exam, a decision is made if new glasses may be helpful. Through the generosity of our corporate sponsors Essilor (lenses) and Safilo (frames), athletes choose from a selection of free eyewear. Athletes who do not need any corrective lenses receive plano sunglasses provided by Safilo.
Eighteen-year-old soccer player Mohammed Mubarak shared that he never had an eye exam in his entire life. During an Opening Eyes exam, he learned about his severe hyperopia and astigmatism that explained his 10% vision in his right and 40% in his left eye. Mohammed left the screening with a much-needed pair of prescription eye glasses.
Almost every fourth athlete who was screened at Opening Eyes during the 2019 Special Olympics World Games in Abu Dhabi had uncorrected vison problems, wrong prescriptions glasses, or broken and scratched lenses that required replacement.
With support from corporate partners Safilo, Essilor, Liberty Sport goggles, Specs4us (ophthalmic frames designed for people with Down syndrome), and Lions Clubs International Foundation, close to 3,000 athletes were screened, and 840 athletes went home with a new pair of glasses. Most of the lenses were produced onsite utilizing mobile edging units, and special lens applications were sent to the lab in Dubai. For the past 19 years, Safilo and Essilor provided Special Olympics athletes with over 225,000 prescription glasses and over 320,000 ophthalmic frames and sunglasses.
Augusto Di Pietro, International Representative and Coordinating Lion Officer for Middle East shared, “The fact that we can open up the world of sports to athletes with intellectual disabilities, it becomes an experience for us as well. When we talk about inclusion, it’s all about this.” Continued support of Healthy Athletes is needed so Special Olympics can continue to screen athletes for health conditions. Thanks to our sponsors, Opening Eyes volunteers were able to open the world of sight for athletes as they competed at World Games.