For quite some time now, athletes with intellectual disabilities have been a forgotten contingent of the population. Last month, however, a gigantic step in the right direction was taken when former President William J. Clinton hosted his eighth annual Clinton Global Initiative in New York City. The event featured an announcement that business tycoon Tom Golisano, chairman of Paychex Inc. and a former owner of the National Hockey League’s Buffalo Sabres, would donate $12 million to the Special Olympics. The funding, which is the largest gift the Special Olympics has ever received from an individual, will be spread out over 4-years, with an emphasis on improved health.
Special Olympic Chairman and CEO Timothy P. Shriver showed no apprehension when he discussed the health issues he has encountered with Special Olympic athletes. “We know athletes with previously undiagnosed cancers, extremely low bone density, and a multitude of other ailments that were overlooked until they came to a Special Olympics,” Shriver said. When Golisano spoke, he highlighted the importance of continued expansion of the program. He said, “We must leverage Special Olympics network, brand, and organizational assets to the fullest extent possible, as well as seek other partners and organizations to bring sustainable, systemic
For all of his prior generosity, Mr. Golisano really practiced what he preached with this donation by making a major change himself. In the past, his financial contributions were confined to the United States, but this historic gift will travel overseas, too. Mexico, Peru, Romania, Malawi, South Africa, Malaysia, and Thailand will all benefit from the funding, to go along with the states of Arizona, Florida, Kansas, New Jersey, Wisconsin, and New York. The seven countries and six states will all welcome a new program called Healthy Communities, which intends to increase free health screenings for Special Olympic competitors.
The money will assist in educating others of the health challenges faced by individuals with intellectual disabilities, form collaborations with local organizations, provide more services to a
larger amount of athletes, and further technology use. All of these areas are essential matters for athletes with intellectual disabilities because specialized equipment is always more expensive.
Whether medical or athletic, necessities such as shoes, wheelchairs, and even medication, are all much more costly for disabled people, and this contribution will go a long way to help improve the situations that many disabled athletes are face everyday.