For 22 years, Special Olympics has incorporated health programming and trained people to use their skills to provide free health screenings for athletes in more than 135 countries. Many health issues of people with intellectual disabilities go undetected due to a provider falsely attributing the symptom or issue to a person’s intellectual disability. With some targeted training and education, this can change.
Enter Special Olympics’ health volunteers
Those interested in volunteering with Special Olympics health programs come with an array of medical expertise spanning everything from podiatry to dentistry to fitness professionals and/or relational understanding and a passion for working with people of different abilities. Volunteers then add to their knowledge and skill set by receiving free training on how to best care for the specific health needs of people with intellectual disabilities in their field of interest. After, volunteers have the opportunity to work with athletes in a fun and comfortable environment through Special Olympics. Ultimately, the volunteers return home, with 86 percent of health care providers reporting that they feel better prepared to treat people with intellectual disabilities as a result of volunteering.
For example, Nikolaos Rivera, a certified personal trainer through the American College of Sports Medicine, volunteered at Special Olympics for the first time at the 50th Anniversary Celebration and Unified Cup in Chicago.
“I’ve learned so much over these last few days and I’ve met so many amazing people,” Rivera shares. “I knew nothing about foam rollers. I was never taught that in my personal training certification, so I have learned how to use those pretty well. I thought it would be an amazing way to get an experience… I would definitely love to volunteer again.”
Special Olympics is about changing lives, including your own
Special Olympics’ health works offers opportunities for health volunteers of all skill sets, and a chance to make and work with numerous new friends. If you want to join the Inclusion Revolution, connect with your local Program. Volunteers come to help, but they often discover the experience helps them, too - and in many cases, changes their lives.
In 2019, you have a lot of choices where to spend your time. Will you choose to add your skill set and passion to the Inclusion Revolution? There is a role for you.