Posted by Samuel Azinger on Sep 12, 2018
Special Olympics Wisconsin Director of Development, Claire Essman and Coach/Member of Board of Directors, Ron Irwin spoke to the Club at Tuesday's meeting.  
Ron told the story of how he came to be involved in Special Olympics Wisconsin.  It all started 16 years ago at the birth of his son, Max.  Max has Down syndrome, and the words spoken to Ron haunted him for years.  "He probably won't have much of a future." Any parent could imagine what it would do to hear those words spoken at such a joyous moment as bringing new life into this world.  Ron wasn't buying it, and neither is Max or Special Olympics Wisconsin.  In competing as a Special Olympics athlete, Max has had great success, has created great memories, and has found inclusion among fellow-athletes as well as within his school.  The future for Max is bright!
Special Olympics programs have provided enormous benefits to people with and without intellectual disabilities.  By providing an encouraging environment in which athletes can compete, socialize, and exercise, individuals with intellectual disabilities receive both emotional and physical health benefits.  Additionally, athletes are provided with free medical screenings which provide screenings for general fitness, podiatry, hearing, visions, dental hygiene, healthy lifestyle choices and sports physicals. Each year over 1,300 health screens are performed, and since 2001 Special Olympics Wisconsin has provided more than 5,700 prescription eyeglasses to those in need, free of charge. 
Special Olympics Wisconsin has additionally worked with schools to create Unified Sports programs.  Unified Sports programs allow individuals with intellectual disabilities to compete along with individuals without disabilities.  These programs have helped to create a better understanding and acceptance by students without intellectual disabilities.  For a group that generally faces stigma, discrimination, social isolation and injustice, the Unified Sports programs has had an incredible impact.  Of those with intellectual disabilities, 93% who participated reported a significant change to self-esteem and self-confidence.  Among those youth without intellectual disabilities, 91% reported significant change in their social skills.  These programs don't only help individuals with disabilities, but schools as a whole.  
Of the more than 10,000 individuals who have taken part of Special Olympics programs, still 13 of 14 individuals with intellectual disabilities have not.  Hopefully nobody with intellectual disabilities is still living in a world where they believe they don't have much of a future, but encouraging education and participation could provide for an inclusive future for all individuals with intellectual disabilities.  I'm certain that any financial contributions would also be appreciated and put to good use.  To quote one of our country's great [village] presidents, "Send us money and we will spend it wisely." Donations can be made by going to and clicking the Donate button. Volunteering opportunities or fundraising opportunities may also be available.