Tom Golisano has given the largest single, private gift in the history of Special Olympics, a $30 million donation that will expand the organization’s Healthy Communities program.
Special Olympics Healthy Communities provides health services globally for people with intellectual disabilities, a population that has been critically underserved, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The program has provided screening to 700,000 athletes in the past five years and added 150,000 athletes to fitness and health programs, decreasing their blood pressure, improving health outcomes, and potentially adding years to their lives.
More than 150,000 health care providers have been trained in 60 countries and 130 health professional schools now have inclusive health curricula to train students on intellectual disabilities.
Golisano, founder of Paychex, philanthropist and father of a son with an intellectual disability, had previously donated gifts totaling $37 million to the organization.
“By investing in our Healthy Communities, Mr. Golisano will allow us to expand to hundreds of new domestic and global regions,” Dr. Alicia Bazzano, Special Olympics chief health officer, said in a news release. “This new gift comes at a critical time for our global community as we have seen during this pandemic just how little this population has been prioritized.”
People with intellectual disabilities die on average 16-20 years sooner than the general population, and more often than not, these deaths are preventable and result from treatable conditions, like constipation, seizures, and heart disease, the organization says.
During the pandemic, many people with intellectual disabilities have not had access to critical COVID-19 care and resources like ventilators and vaccines.
Strategic initiatives for the next five years include reaching three million in-person and virtual health screenings in more than 100 countries; reaching 650,000 young children with intellectual disabilities and their families to provide early intervention services so they can walk, run skip and play at an earlier age; creating Golisano Virutal University to train 100,000 health care professionals so they can treat people with intellectual disabilities.
“I am pleased to continue financial support for Special Olympics’ extraordinary health work, which is giving people with intellectual and developmental disabilities improved access to health services and the opportunity to live happier, more productive lives,” Golisano said.
“Special Olympics’ impact on the health of people with intellectual disabilities is impressive — as is its strategy on how to build on this success over the next several years. The focus on measurement, standardization of practices, early diagnosis, a trained workforce, and health systems that demonstrate inclusive policies, will effectively position Special Olympics to further our mutual goal of health equity.”
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