Athletics

'Special' praise

SOI's Vasquez salutes Jamaica as trendsetter in special needs sports

Friday, November 03, 2017

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Javier Vasquez, Special Olympics International (SOI) director of global health programmes, has heaped praise on Jamaica's trendsetting exploits ahead of this weekend's healthy athletes screening and unified football competition at Treasure Beach Sports Park in St Elizabeth.

“What is happening in Jamaica is having an impact in the Caricom and Caribbean region, and also in other regions of the world,” said Vasquez during yesterday's launch of the event at the Jamaica Olympic Association offices in Kingston.

“It's a model and example of what could be done in other countries of the Caribbean, and we would like to show them what is happening in St Elizabeth,” he added.

Between today and tomorrow, Special Olympics Jamaica (SOJ) will facilitate healthy athletes training and screening to benefit individuals with intellectual disabilities.

The event is organised and coordinated through a partnership with Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), the regional office of the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF, Lions Club International, Digicel, Sports Development Foundation (SDF), Law Enforcement Torch Run, and the Treasure Beach-based Breds Foundation.

Trained medical clinicians, including those from other Caribbean Special Olympics programmes, will be providing free screening of the eyes, ears and teeth, as well as promoting the importance of physiotherapy and overall health awareness for approximately 60 athletes.

Those in attendance will also be treated to unified football tomorrow, and Aldrick “Allie” McNab, the SOJ board chairman, yesterday promised an “exciting weekend of activities”.

Heather Harmer, senior manager of healthy athletes programmes in the region of North America, which covers United States, Canada and the Caribbean said special attention is being given to Jamaica and its mostly island neighbours.

“The Caribbean is a programme that we are prioritising, so it's wonderful that we can be here to support the work that's going on,” she said, while stressing that the aim is to ensure athletes are in optimum condition to perform at their best in Special Olympics competition.

Jean Lowrie-Chin, chairman of Digicel Foundation; Denzil Wilks, SDF chief executive officer; Garth Gayle, second vice-president of Jamaica Olympics Association; and Mark Connolly, UNICEF's representative in Jamaica, promised unwavering support for Special Olympics Jamaica during yesterday's press conference.

SOJ, guided by Executive Director Lorna Bell, has championed healthy athletes screening across the island, and only last year over 120 people with intellectual disabilities were screened in the parish of Westmoreland.

The local body, in tandem with UNICEF and other partners, held a healthy athletes conference for medical practitioners in May.

The Special Olympics movement provides athletic opportunities as well as health care to children and adults with intellectual disabilities, with the goal of instilling confidence and promoting their chances of leading successful lives.

— Sanjay Myers

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