Every child deserves a healthy start, nutritionally, socially, academically and athletically. Which, is why CVS Caremark truly loves partnering with organizations that continually provide fun opportunities for kids of all abilities to grow healthy minds and bodies, and to learn and play together. Connecting parents to resources, and inspiring smiles along the way, is a daily goal for CVS Caremark All Kids Can program—one shared by Special Olympics.
Just a few weeks ago, CVS Caremark gave this hardworking organization its own reason to smile: a $50,000 grant to help expand Special Olympics’ Healthy Athletes Program, which prior to this grant, benefited special needs children and adults over the age of 8. Dedicated to providing health services and education to Special Olympics athletes, Healthy Athletes has enabled nearly 1.4 million athletes to obtain free, comprehensive health screenings.
The new initiative, aptly named Healthy Young Athletes, now empowers Special Olympics to serve families with children between 2-7 via age-appropriate healthcare services and support, and early childhood intervention and preventive education. This is critical for parents, who primarily rely on annual well-visits for information on their child’s health status, when during the year, things can change, particularly with sight and hearing.
On November 2, families from Chester, Northampton, Delaware and Philadelphia counties experienced the Healthy Young Athletes program in action at Special Olympics PA Fall Festival, held at Villanova University. CVS Caremark’s grant helped families attend the clinics and benefit from the health screenings.
Those participating in this kick-off event had the opportunity to engage their children in a variety of gross motor activities, including a get-to-know-you round of Duck, Duck, Goose; catch ’n’ toss, running in and around an obstacle course, and having a little fun with a giant parachute.
Krystina Steinhauser, a Northampton County mom, found out about the event through one of Special Olympics’ partners, Miracle League. Though her 7-year-old son, Dylan, who is autistic, began the day feeling a little shy, over the course of the morning, he and his twin sister romped around with the other children and energetic volunteers, whooping it up and wearing those big smiles that All Kids Can loves to see. One of the aspects Steinhauser appreciated most about the day, was the relaxed feel and co-mingling of children, college students and adults of all abilities.
Helping families discover these inclusive opportunities is at the heart of what CVS Caremark All Kids Can’s mission. Anyone walking around Villanova’s campus during the fall festival, would not be able to miss the upbeat energy, camaraderie and good clean fun being shared by all.
Inside Villanova’s Kennedy Ellipse building, volunteer healthcare practitioners set up Special Smiles and Healthy Hearing screenings for its newest set of “patients,” who eagerly popped into chairs for traditional ear examinations and an otoacoustic emissions test, a type of hearing test that measures an acoustic response produced by the inner ear. Now administered within 48 hours of birth; this was a first for the children participating in the Healthy Young Athletes program. By helping Special Olympics expand its reach, CVS Caremark is making an impact on early detection and prevention for this “special” group of little people.
Down the hall from the hearing screenings, children and their parents took part in what might have been the most exciting dental visit they’ve ever had. Coloring pages, word searches, brushing lessons, free toothbrushes, and make-and-take mouth guards… all were a hit with the kids. And while they scooped up all the goodies, moms and dads soaked up vital oral hygiene information and potential trouble spots being giving to them—for free—by volunteers from Temple and Villanova universities, and Randolph A. Philip AVT High School.
Following these screenings, diagnostics citing potential concerns are addressed with parents, so that immediate action can be taken—a significant benefit to families who might otherwise have a delay in obtaining appropriate, timely care.
CVS Caremark’s funding will result in double the number of Healthy Young Athlete events and screenings across the country in 2013-2014, and reach communities that have been underserved by Special Olympics due to financial constraints.
Watching these partnerships in action, it’s quite clear that the prescription for healthy athletes of ALL abilities starts with collaborative initiatives such as these that create a sense of “family” on so many levels. At a time when nonprofit organizations are struggling to deliver quality services, grants like the one provided by CVS Caremark can make the difference in a child’s self esteem as well as his/her physical health. It takes a lot for children with disabilities to get to the finish line; being in optimum health shouldn’t be something families need to worry about.