#PartnersInUnity at the 2017 Special Olympics World Games

We’re at the Special Olympics World Winter Games, meeting athletes from around the world! From March 14th until March 25, Austria is hosting the 2017 World Winter Games. 2,700 athletes from 107 nations will be participating in nine different sports including figure skating, speed skating, floor hockey and more.

Follow @lionsclubs on Twitter and Facebook on March 17 and 18 for updates from Austria!

LCIF and Opening Eyes

Lions Clubs International Foundation (LCIF) has been involved with Special Olympics International since the inception of their collaborative program, Opening Eyes, which promotes vision and eye health for Special Olympics athletes. People who are disabled are largely underserved when it comes to vision care. Since 2001, Opening Eyes has screened more than 370,000 Special Olympics athletes. More than 161,000 athletes have received prescription eyewear.

Funded by an LCIF Core 4 grant, Opening Eyes continues to screen athletes for visual impairments and eye health. Corrective and protective eyewear are provided to the athlete, if needed. In addition, athletes are taught how to take care of their eyes.

Leos and Mission: Inclusion

In 2014, Lions, Leos and Special Olympics kicked off “Mission: Inclusion” – a dynamic social tool that brings Leos and people with and without intellectual disabilities together to join together on the field of play. With Leos serving as global leaders in community service and advocacy, the match is one that brings added benefits to Leos and Special Olympics athletes alike.

Leos Share Their Stories

In early March 2017, the Somers Leo Club (New York, USA) participated in a Mission: Inclusion floor hockey activity with the Special Olympics World Winter Games USA team. Here’s what they had to say about the experience:

Leo Brandon LaSpina:

“Through the Leos I have been privileged to work with Special Olympians in Track, Basketball and now Floor Hockey. I have met athletes which cover the entire spectrum of functionality and the one thing that I have learned is that each athlete always has a smile on their face, is determined.  They always rise to the occasion and do not let their disability deter or define who they are.”

Leo Mia Klayman:

“The Leos Club and Special Olympics changed the way I think about people with developmental disabilities.  My experience made me realize that these people with disabilities not only want to do the same things that we do, but that they are capable of doing so. They are still able to be apart of a sports team and compete against other people.   Their disability does not have to define them.”

Leo Jon Riina:

“I especially enjoyed interacting with the athletes and listening to their stories about their amazing journey thus far as well as their upcoming trip to Austria. I have a great deal of respect  and admiration for these kids and wish them the best of luck. So much about them surprised me and I will always remember the time I spent with them.”