On Saturday, November 4, 2023, Special Olympics New Jersey (SONJ) hosted a Healthy Athletes event at the SONJ Sports Complex in Lawrenceville. Thanks to the generous support of the Golisano Foundation, the CDC, Lions Club International, Starkey Cares, RWJBarnabas Health, Delta Dental, TD Charitable Foundation, Healthcare Quality Strategies Foundation, Inspira Health, Bristol Myers Squibb, Henry Schein Cares, Patterson, Colgate Bright Smiles Bright Future, and Envista Smile Project, SONJ provided FREE health screenings in the following disciplines:

  • Healthy Hearing
  • Special Smiles
  • Opening Eyes

Healthy Hearing

This is SONJ’s 4th time hosting the event and this year we welcomed Healthy Hearing as a new addition. This is the very first time SONJ offered Healthy Hearing outside of Summer Games and thanks to the partnership with Starkey Cares we were able to offer cerumen management and hearing aids fittings, if necessary, all FREE of charge.

Denise Cardona, Healthy Hearing discipline manager from Special Olympics International, stated that “We are here for a shared goal towards inclusive health” by providing “services to these athletes that they wouldn’t have access to otherwise.”

35 athletes attended the Healthy Hearing screenings, and 75% needed cerumen removal onsite and 3 were referred for impacted ear wax. 5 hearing aids were provided to 3 unique athletes. The average cost is about $3,000 per hearing aid which means the total bill could equal about $6,000 for both ears. Healthy Hearing and Starkey Cares were able to fit 3 athletes with free hearing aids, approximately $15,000 worth for SONJ athletes!

Justine Hammer, Doctor of Audiology and Clinical lead for Starkey Cares partnership explained “We are here to help athletes obtain the gift of hearing.”

  • 35 athletes screened
  • 75% of athlete received cerumen removal onsite
  • 3 athletes fit with hearing aids, 5 hearing aids provided total
  • 5 athletes referred for cerumen removal

Special Smiles

A total of 45 SONJ athletes received dental screenings, cleanings, and treatment, all on-site and also completely FREE of charge! Because many athletes with IDD face several barriers when accessing adequate dental treatment, SONJ is able to offer screenings in order to detect what type of care athletes need, and then is able to provide the care and treatment on-site.

This event also helps to link those athletes with the necessary follow-up care they need. Thanks to Delta Dental for supporting Special Olympics New Jersey and the New Jersey Dental Association we are able to provide our athletes with a list of both adult and pediatric dental providers by county and if they accept Medicaid and provide sedation https://www.njda.org/providerlist

  • 45 athletes screened and treated
  • 30 mouth guards were provided
  • 3 referrals, 1 urgent

Opening Eyes

Lastly, we provided 72 total eyewear for our athletes including prescription glasses, sunglasses, sports goggles, or swim goggles FREE of charge in the Opening Eyes discipline.

Linda Carlson, parent of an SONJ athlete shares that “you think you’re going to do a little medical thing in the gym but it’s much more than that! It’s very comprehensive and it’s a comfortable environment.”

  • 45 athletes screened
  • 72 total eyewear provided
    • 33 glasses
    • 18 sports goggles
    • 7 swim goggles
    • 14 sunglasses
    • 19 referrals, 4 urgent

Special Olympics Healthy Athletes® Programs, made possible by the Golisano Foundation in collaboration with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), are creating a world where people with intellectual disabilities have every opportunity to be healthy.  Healthy Athletes® provides free health screenings in a fun, welcoming environment that removes the anxiety people with intellectual disabilities (ID) often experience when faced with a visit to the doctor or dentist. We not only serve these athletes but also train healthcare professionals who then go back to their practices with increased knowledge of and compassion for people with ID.

Athlete Morgan Hulteen thanks all the doctors for “keeping me healthy”, without the volunteers this event and none of the events that SONJ hosts would be possible. “I did not expect such a wonderful experience, what wonderful, caring people. That knew how to handle all of our kids needs.” states Mona Hulteen, parent of an SONJ athlete.

“Our athletes face several barriers to getting access to quality healthcare. I am proud to share that several athletes received care onsite that they otherwise would have to go to the doctor or dentist to receive. We had a strong group of volunteers rally together to support the athletes. Without the support of the volunteers, this event, and none of the events we hold, would be possible. It was a very rewarding and emotional experience. We saw many smiling faces leaving the complex!”

– Amelia Hamilton, Health Programs Director

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