I had the opportunity to attend two Special Olympics Massachusetts (SOMA) events in the past week that included Special Olympics Healthy Athletes©. The first event was the wonderfully successful Cape Cod School Days Games hosted by Mashpee High School. These Games featured stations that classrooms of school age children from southeastern Massachusetts and the Cape rotated through in a day of games and competitions. Included with the running, jumping and throwing stations was a Healthy Athletes Special Smiles station. Volunteer dentists, hygienists and Blue Crew volunteers from Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) of Massachusetts conducted a free dental screening, offered recommendations for follow up dental care, provided instruction on proper brushing techniques and handed out stickers, a BCBS tote bag and other goodies to the athletes taking part in the Games.
Special Smiles is one of the seven disciplines in Special Olympics Healthy Athletes Initiative. The other disciplines are: Healthy Hearing, Health Promotion, Medfest, Lions Clubs – Opening Eyes, FunFitness and FitFeet. The goals of the Healthy Athletes Initiatives are to provide free medical screenings to Special Olympics athletes, make referrals for appropriate follow up care, provide educational opportunities for health care professionals in the care of people with intellectual disabilities and to collect health care data and advocate on behalf of this underserved population.
The other event I attended with a Healthy Athletes component was the 2009 SOMA Tennis Assessment Round hosted by Wayland High School. Sixty four SOMA athletes from around the state gathered at the Wayland High School outdoor tennis courts for a day of competition on a sunny and beautiful New England May Saturday. The athletes clearly had been training for several weeks and were ready to test their skills with one and other. Before the competitions began the athletes warmed up and stretched out, they protected themselves with sunscreen from the late spring sunshine, they drank plenty of water to stay hydrated and ate healthy snacks of fruit and bagels provided by the Wayland High School Boosters Club – all attributes of a healthy athletic lifestyle. They then played tennis for about 3 hours to the best of their abilities. Although this event did not feature a Healthy Athletes screening it did involve many healthy athletes enjoying the benefits of participating in Special Olympics Massachusetts.
For more information on the Healthy Athletes© programs please visit the SOMA web site www.specialolympicsma.org and click on the Healthy Athletes logo.