EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is a guest post by David Evangelista, Vice President of Global Development and Government Relations at Special Olympics International.
“Thank you Lions Clubs of Brazil. Thank you for believing in us as athletes. Thank you for giving us opportunities to shine. You may be surprised, but you will not be disappointed!”
These words, offered by Special Olympics Brazil athlete Leticia Elias, provided a great introduction to the 2014 Special Olympics Brazil–Lions Clubs of Brazil stakeholders meeting in Sao Paulo, Brazil. The stakeholders meeting served as the inauguration of a national partnership between Special Olympics and Lions Clubs International Foundation (LCIF) in Brazil, highlighting the commitment of both organizations to implement the core tenants of “Mission: Inclusion” throughout the country in support of individuals with intellectual disabilities.
As part of the national partnership, signed between Special Olympics Brazil President George Milliard and Lions Clubs International Director Fabio Almeida, both organizations have committed to delivering innovative programming in the areas of inclusive sports, global health, family health education, athlete leadership, service projects and much more as part of a larger push to elevate the impact and awareness of service in support of one of the most excluded populations in the world today.
Photo credit Special Olympics Inc.
Leo youth leaders will play a strong role in the national partnership, spearheading Unified Sports® opportunities for youth with and without intellectual disabilities in a variety of sports, including football, the nation’s most popular sport. Through inclusive sports participation, Leos will not only empower athletes to achieve their best on the field, but will also offer athletes an opportunity to engage in community service projects, build friendships, and learn from one another.
“We are honored to be partnering with the largest service club organization in the world,” said George Milliard, President of Special Olympics Brazil. “Our athletes, our families, and our communities could not be more grateful for this commitment to service, to action, to change.”
Outreach to families will serve as a key pillar of the partnership, where Lions Clubs community leaders will serve as co-organizers and guest speakers at select Special Olympics–LCIF Family Health Forums. Through such community gatherings, families of children with intellectual disabilities will learn what social services are available to help care for their family members, what community participation opportunities exist, and learn of the benefits of being part of the “Mission: Inclusion” partnership. The Family Health Forum model is meant to serve as a key extension of the Special Olympics-Lions Clubs International Opening Eyes program, and related health screening programs supported by Lions, which serves as the largest public health program in the world supporting individuals with intellectual disabilities.
Photo credit Special Olympics Inc.
“Today marks the beginning of a new chapter in the partnership between Special Olympics and Lions Clubs in Brazil,” said LCIF Chairperson Barry Palmer. “These athletes deserve, and should have access to, quality care that is appropriate to their individual needs. We must work hard to ensure that we sustain what we create, on behalf of those we serve. LCIF looks forward to sharing in the success of this collaboration and celebrating its progress.”
Lions Clubs International Foundation has been partnering with Special Olympics International since 2001 through the Opening Eyes program to provide free vision screenings at select Special Olympics sporting events worldwide. Athletes also receive diagnoses for vision-related problems, corrective and protective eye wear, and are taught how to take better care of their eyes. The partnership expanded in 2013 to reach even more people.