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Special Olympics Partnership

Opening Eyes

Research has shown that among Special Olympics athletes, 68 percent have not had an eye examination in three years, 37 percent are in need of eyeglasses and 18 percent wear clinically-incorrect eyeglasses. The disabled are a largely underserved group when it comes to vision care. They deserve, and should have access to, quality care that is appropriate to their particular needs.

That is why LCIF and Special Olympics began a partnership in 2001 to provide free vision screenings at select Special Olympics sporting events worldwide. Athletes also receive diagnoses for vision-related problems, corrective and protective eyewear, and are taught how to take better care of their eyes.

A successful collaborative effort, the Special Olympics-Lions Clubs International Opening Eyes program relies on thousands of volunteer Lions, doctors, vision specialists and educators. More than 370,050 athletes have been screened, with prescription eyewear provided to 161,000 athletes.

Since the partnership began, the Foundation has awarded US$23 million in grant funding.

“Mission: Inclusion”

The longstanding partnership between LCIF and Special Olympics recently expanded. Beyond vision screenings and prescription eyeglasses, this five-year expansion, known as “Mission: Inclusion,” is creating programs to support acceptance of people with intellectual disabilities within their communities.

Leos have an important role to play in this expanded partnership, which focuses on the Special Olympics program known as Unified Sports®. By teaming up with Special Olympics athletes to train and compete in various sports, Leos are leading by example.  Both Leos and Special Olympics athletes improve their physical fitness, better their skills and learn the value of acceptance and inclusion. The goals of Unified Sports are to equalize the ability level of Special Olympics athletes with their partners and to promote inclusion through team practice and competition.

Special Olympics and Lions Clubs International continue to work to show that individuals with intellectual disabilities have core talents and abilities that they long to offer to their communities. Both on and off the playing field, Special Olympics athletes and Leos continue to team up to create social inclusion.