Tag: volunteer programs

Health Care Professionals and Students Volunteer at Health Screenings

The success of the Special Olympics(SO) is dependent on the volunteerism of thousands of people who donate their time and energy to coach, guide and advise the athletes. In addition, Health care professionals and students volunteer to ensure the success of the FUNfitness and Healthy Athletes programs.

Health care professionals share expertise

The Health care professionals conduct health screenings as an essential part of the FUNfitness program. Doctors, dentists, nurses, podiatrists, physical therapist, vision and hearing specialists all donate their time to insure that Health screenings are done in a professional manner.

Here in Massachusetts, our FUNfitness team includes Deirdra Murphy DPT, Clinical Director; Ed Kostek DPT, Clinical Instructor and Nancy Davis DPT who directs and implements the FUN fitness screenings.

Getting students involved

The committed team includes both seasoned professionals and students in these various health professions.

Deirdra is on the physical therapy faculty at UMass-Lowell, where her students have consistently participated. Ann Golub-Victor, DPT is on the faculty at Northeastern University(NU), recruiting many students from NU who are also key to our program.

Goals for the programs

The primary goal of FUNfitness is providing education and service to the Special Olympics athletes. The Healthy Athletes(HA) program has a key goal of increasing opportunities for people with Intellectual Disabilities(ID) to access needed health services. There are many barriers to these services including the attitude of health providers unfamiliar with the needs of people with ID or who have no previous experience with people with ID.

Through FUNfitness and other HA screenings, we create a fun and welcoming service where health professionals meet and interact while providing necessary service. . . And through this effort they come to the realization that their current and future practice can and should include people with ID and other developmental disabilities. As one student recently remarked, “I didn’t realize this would be so much fun.”

This is also our opportunity to educate health providers that people with ID have significant health problems previously unidentified, such as a high rate of balance difficulty and muscle tightness. The result is a better understanding of the need to address these concerns and that we all have a role in advocating for better health care for people with ID.

Learn more

To learn more about the FUNfitness Program,  other Healthy Athletes Programs or possibly becoming a volunteer, contact George Kent, george.kent@specialolympicsma.org ,at 508.485.0986 ex. 215.

About the author

Jim Gleason is an Associate Director of the Shriver Center University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCEDD) and a faculty member of the UMMS Shriver LEND Program.Jim Gleason


Mentoring Program for Youth with Disabilities Makes a Difference

When you were growing up, who made you feel good about yourself?

For me, I think that person was my brother. Although he teased me ruthlessly when we were young, he was always there for me… And when he went off to college, his letters were a precious reminder that there was someone who thought I was extraordinary.

Mentoring Program addresses a need

Everyone needs someone to make them feel good about themselves, and for many youth, mentoring programs were established to offer that support.

In 1985, Regina Snowden established Partners for Youth with Disabilities Inc (PYD) to address this specific need. As a community based mentoring program, PYD now serves youth of all disabilities between the ages of 6-24 years old.

Addressing the whole child

Last month I met staff at PYD and was truly inspired by their passion and commitment to this mission. I began by meeting with Kaela Vronsky, Mentoring and National Center Director who gave an overview of their comprehensive programs.

“Our goal is to address the whole child and use our programs, including mentoring, to help facilitate a smooth transition to independent adulthood. PYD now includes our Access to Theater, Making Healthy Connections, and Young Entrepreneurs Programs. ”

Mentoring makes a difference.

Lynn and her mentee

Jeff Lafata, Mentor Match Specialist then shared his thoughts about why people ask for mentors. “For children, some have really bad self esteem and want help. For older youth with disabilities, many are getting ready for college or preparing for a job and want a mentor with a disability to let them know they too can be successful.”

He then spoke of a match where he was personally inspired. “We had a

Juan and his mentee
Juan and his mentee

mentee who was 22 and a wheelchair user. During the interview he was extremely dynamic talking about an internship he would be doing at a recording studio. But he could also be depressed and didn’t really identify with having a disability. We matched him with a mentor who was 30 years old, also a wheelchair user, married, and had his own business. By meeting him, he could see it was possible to be where he wanted to go.”

Think about being a mentor

 PYD presently has 65 active matches, with an additional 50 youth on the waiting list; 80% are male who prefer a male mentor. Statistically, that means for every adult male on the mentor waiting list there are 8 youth looking to be matched specifically with a male mentor.

So if you or someone you know is interested in being a mentor, especially your male friends, contact Jeff at jlafata@pyd.org

After visiting this wonderful organization, I assure you it will be worth the call.