There were smiles all around—from athletes and UMass Medical School volunteers alike—at the Special Olympics 2011 Winter Games held March 12 and 13 in and around Worcester. More than 2,400 athletes competed in a variety of events, including skiing, basketball, bowling and floor hockey, among others. Approximately 100 members of the UMMS community, including faculty, staff and students, volunteered at the events held at Worcester Academy, a location designated specifically for UMMS volunteers.
According to Susan Wagner, MA, senior program development associate in Commonwealth Medicine’s Office of Program Development, which facilitates UMMS involvement with Special Olympics Massachusetts (SOMA), approximately 65 people pre-registered with SOMA to volunteer at Worcester Academy and many more came the day of the event to participate. “Many, including myself, solicited family members to volunteer this year as well,” said Wagner. “My mother supervised the basketball courts at Worcester Academy.”
The feedback Wagner received from UMMS volunteers was overwhelmingly positive. “Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences volunteers did an outstanding job as team escorts and enjoyed the one-on-one interaction with the athletes,” she said. “Some first-time volunteers from Commonwealth Medicine’s Acquired Brain Injury Waiver Program became so involved and encouraged by their experience, they returned to participate in the medal ceremony and were genuinely moved to tears.”
Volunteers from the Graduate School of Nursing conducted health promotion screenings at Worcester Academy as part of the Healthy Athletes Initiative.
Volunteers from the Graduate School of Nursing (GSN), led by Paulette Seymour-Route, PhD, dean of the GSN and clinical director for Healthy Athletes health promotion, conducted health promotion screenings at Worcester Academy for athletes as part of the Healthy Athletes Initiative. Screenings included sun safety, tobacco cessation, physical activity, bone density and nutrition. Additional screenings—Fit Feet, FUNfitness, and Healthy Hearing—were held at other locations during the games.
“UMMS had a great showing at our Winter Games this year,” said Elisabeth Nangle, Special Olympics Massachusetts’ Healthy Athletes program coordinator. “Throughout the day, the health promotion volunteers would switch between stations. It was a great display of support and dedication from UMMS. I was extremely pleased with the way they carried themselves, and most importantly, the way they worked with our athletes. There were many smiles.”
The focal point of the partnership between UMMS and SOMA, the Healthy Athletes initiative provides health services and education to Special Olympics athletes and trains health care professionals to support the initiative. According to Nangle, 61 athletes participated in the health promotion screenings at this year’s Winter Games. “We are very pleased with the number of athletes who went through the screening this year,” she said.
Graduate School of Nursing helps special athletes stay healthy
UMMS and Special Olympics Massachusetts are partnering to improve health care access for individuals with intellectual disabilities