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Special Olympics has competitions, programs and initiatives all around the world, every day of the year. Here's a look at what it's all about.
James Day Keith of Special Olympics Massachusetts. joins JR. They discuss James bursting onto the Hollywood scene with his role in "Champions" and his family legacy as Special Olympics Hall of Famers.
Dr. David Jenkins, a podiatry professor at Midwestern University, has been a transformative force in Special Olympics Arizona's Healthy Athletes program for 16 years. As a FitFeet Clinical Director, he has educated and trained hundreds of students, certified 50 global Clinical Directors, and expanded health services to athletes with intellectual disabilities. The efforts of Dr. Jenkins in creating referral networks, providing athlete-friendly educational resources, leading academic research and promoting inclusive health initiatives have significantly impacted the lives of athletes with intellectual disabilities and their caregivers. His dedication to fostering prevention, quality assessments, and partnerships inspires others to emulate his inclusive health allyship and make a difference in their communities.
The Abu Dhabi Public Health Center (ADPHC) has forged a strong partnership with Special Olympics UAE, showcasing their commitment to addressing health barriers faced by people with intellectual disabilities. Through this collaboration, they have launched a nationwide initiative for early detection of chronic conditions and provided free access to regular health examinations for athletes with intellectual disabilities. The partnership has also led to the training of seven Clinical Directors and the provision of fitness equipment, educational materials and awareness workshops. Furthermore, ADPHC has supported a training program across the emirates called Unified Healthcare, that equips medical professionals and clinical administrative staff to deliver informed, compassionate and high-quality healthcare to patients with intellectual disabilities.
Dr. Georgina Toro is a pediatric dentistry specialist from Universidad Nacional Andres Bello, the largest private university in Chile. Volunteering her expertise, Dr. Toro engages her students to educate individuals with intellectual disabilities on oral hygiene, conduct dental screenings, and provide dental procedures free of charge to Special Olympics athletes. The university currently supports learners with intellectual disabilities across 12 special needs schools in the metropolitan area of Santiago. Dr. Toro has been supporting Special Olympics Chile (SOC) to grow their university and medical partnerships to include all three regions where Universidad Nacional Andres Bello has campuses with health tracks and thus expand treatment opportunities to athletes living in remote areas of the country.
Dr. Imke Kaschke, the Special Olympics Regional Clinical Advisor for Special Smiles in Europe, is a prominent inclusive health advocate in Germany. Having established free health screenings for athletes with intellectual disabilities in all 16 German states, she has also made significant contributions at Berlin's Charité hospital, where she managed dental consultations for people with intellectual disabilities. Dr. Kaschke trains physicians and dentists to care properly for patients with intellectual disabilities, promotes inclusive university curricula, and fosters collaborative partnerships between Special Olympics Germany and 12 national professional associations. Through her efforts, she has secured funding and driven policy changes, ensuring people with intellectual disabilities now receive more accessible and comprehensive dental care.
In 2019, Special Olympics Chinese Taipei secured free physical exams and specialty medical care for athletes through a national health insurance agreement, largely due to Dr. Lin-Chung Woung's 20-year activism. At the same time, as a Special Olympics Opening Eyes Clinical Director, Dr. Woung has organized five annual health promotion events, focusing on children and family health education. He facilitated COVID-19 prevention and vaccination events and secured three university partnerships, five hospital collaborations, and healthcare professional trainings at Taipei City Hospital during his tenure as Dean. Dr. Woung's influence has significantly advanced inclusive health in the region, across multiple universities and hospitals, he consistently uses his influence to ensure that the health needs of individuals with intellectual disabilities are prioritized.
The Kenya Medical Training College (KMTC), founded in 1927, is a leading East African medical institution, training 85% of Kenya's healthcare workforce across 44 campuses. Through a decade-long partnership with Special Olympics (SO) Kenya, KMTC integrates intellectual disability training for students, mid-level specialists and doctors, providing a multi-disciplinary approach. Students gain clinical experience at Special Olympics Healthy Athletes screenings, with KMTC also transporting them to rural areas where athletes with intellectual disabilities are otherwise hard to reach. In 2022, KMTC volunteers screened over 2,000 athletes. SO Kenya aims to train the 10,000+ annual KMTC graduates to serve individuals with intellectual disabilities, expanding access to comprehensive healthcare in remote regions and ensuring a health workforce that is geared to deliver quality, inclusive care.
For over a decade, Dr. Hafizur Rahman has been a passionate Clinical Director supporting Special Olympics athletes in Bangladesh. Through strategic partnerships with private and public entities, he has facilitated preferential and discounted access to care for athletes, trained countless clinicians, students and health facility administrators, and educated family members on their role as custodians of their families' health. Dr. Rahman has coordinated trainings for healthcare professionals, recruited and trained students, and provided health information at weekly fitness and information sessions for families which has empowered them to make timely and appropriate health decisions.
Special Olympics Rhode Island athlete and Administrative Assistant & Athlete Leadership Specialist Mary-Ellen Powers speaks with JR before her trip to Berlin for the Global Athlete Congress. Mary-Ellen began her involvement in Special Olympics in high school and has now worked for Special Olympics Rhode Island for almost twelve years. Mary-Ellen shares her love of Special Olympics and competing as an athlete with JR.
Jamaican athlete and Special Olympics employee David Duncan speaks with JR ahead of the Global Athlete Congress. David began his Special Olympics journey as a volunteer, and now he is one of the select representatives helping chart the course for athletes around the world. The Global Athlete Congress will meet in June (2023) at the Special Olympics World Games, which gives athletes a voice and agency in charting their own path forward. David explains to JR why the employment of Special Olympics athletes is of such importance to him that he is bringing the cause to the forefront of the discussion at the World Games.
The New York Red Bulls hosted a Unified Soccer team. After the game JR spoke with Isabelle Noonan and Shaeleigh Fleidner-Book about their experience playing on the professional field and more importantly, how Unified Sports is both a "movement and a message."
Special Olympics Athlete and Special Olympics Maryland Digital Media Coordinator Adam Hays joins JR to discuss the "inclusion revolution" and share his own story about how a boy born with hydrocephalus (commonly referred to as "water on the brain") and who underwent more than 30 brain surgeries can go on to win two gold medals at the USA Games and represent all athletes as one of the Law Enforcement Torch Run Final Leg team members at the Special Olympic World Games in Athens, Greece. When others have doubted Adam, he has proved them wrong by living a full life and achieving some of his wildest dreams