Special Olympics has been awarded the prestigious Pardes Humanitarian Prize, a global recognition that honors individuals or groups who have made significant contributions towards understanding mental health challenges and addressing the issues faced by individuals. The Brain & Behavior Research Foundation presented the award to Special Olympics, acknowledging the organization's profound impact on individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) worldwide through year-round sports training and athletic programs.
The event was attended by Special Olympics leadership, including Dr. Timothy Shriver. Dr. Karoly Mirnics, Special Olympics Board Member expressed his gratitude while accepting the award on behalf of the organization. He highlighted the shared dedication of Special Olympics and the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation in promoting inclusivity and acknowledged the invaluable partnership with the Golisano Foundation in advancing the health initiatives of Special Olympics. Dr. Mirnics emphasized the importance of enhanced mental health services that are inclusive and accessible to individuals with IDD.
The Special Olympics Strong Minds program is an interactive learning activity focused on empowering Special Olympics athletes with adaptive coping skills to improve emotional wellness. Competition provides a natural opportunity to develop active strategies for maintaining emotional wellness under stress, such as thinking positive thoughts, deep breathing, muscle relaxation, and connecting with others. Athletes and their caregivers are also given educational resources to support them in connecting with providers in their communities, when needed. The Strong Minds program is currently being further developed to include mental health screening components and referrals to community-based healthcare professionals.
The event brought together a wealth of knowledge and expertise, making it a truly valuable experience. It serves as a reminder that inclusivity in mental health is a crucial matter that impacts us all, demanding collective action to address it.