Building a healthier future

My name is Nicole and I have an intellectual disability but that doesn’t mean I have a problem with my intellect. I want to share a story with you about how Special Olympics Minnesota changed my life.

Outside the swimming pool at Summer Games, I was waiting for my heat to be called when my teammate Kenny said, “Sometimes my goggles fog up and I can’t see when I’m swimming.” To which I said, “I can never see when I’m swimming. I can’t see without my glasses and I can’t wear my glasses while I’m swimming.”

Before my next race, I ran over to the Healthy Athletes Opening Eyes screening to get my eyes checked. While I was there, the clinic supervisor asked me if I would be interested in swim goggles. “That would be nice,” I said, not expecting anything because I know how expensive prescription swim goggles are. But when I walked over to the table where athletes were picking out glasses and sunglasses, a Healthy Athletes volunteer looked over my paperwork and gave me a pair of prescription goggles to try on. She asked me if I could see. I said yes because I could see better than I can without my glasses. She gave me two more pairs to try on. And when I put on the second pair I exclaimed, “Oh my goodness!” It was like I was seeing in HD.

I ran back to the pool to get ready for my second race: the 50M breaststroke. I made sure to bring my new goggles. I got into the pool and swam my race. The whole time I was awestruck by how clear the water is. This was the first time I was able to see while swimming. After the race, I could actually see the scoreboard. That’s never happened before.

Special Olympics Minnesota and Healthy Athletes has made a huge difference in my life. Not only because they gave me prescription swim goggles, but because for the first time in my life, I felt listened to and accepted for who I am. They valued my ideas instead of brushing me off or talking about me as if I wasn’t in the room and couldn’t possibly understand my own healthcare. Thank you, Healthy Athletes volunteers, for treating me as the important and valuable person that I am.

Despite severe need and higher health risks, people with intellectual disabilities are often denied health services and die from preventable illnesses, on average, 16 years sooner than the general population. This is unacceptable. Through its health initiatives and screenings, Special Olympics Minnesota is creating a world where people with intellectual disabilities have every opportunity to be healthy. Along with health and fitness education, Special Olympics Minnesota offers free health screenings to people with intellectual disabilities. Donate now to support these efforts.