The following is a Letter to the Editor written by Special Olympics Florida CEO/President Sherry Wheelock and published in the Miami Herald on January 2, 2014. This letter was in response to a Christmas Day profile of Emmitt McCoy, a Miami athlete.
Emmitt McCoy, a vibrant Miami man who has an intellectual disability and a set of broken dentures he can’t afford to replace, was profiled in the Miami Herald’s Wish Book story on Christmas day. McCoy’s story resonates deeply with me not just because he is a Special Olympics athlete but also because it sheds light on an all-too-common occurrence: People with intellectual and developmental disabilities get inferior healthcare — if and when they get it — even though most people believe the opposite. Statistically, people with intellectual disabilities are one of the largest and most medically under-served disability groups in the world.
Readers should know that Special Olympics is more than sports. We also provide free health screenings for our athletes. We believe in serving the whole person. When athletes are not at their physical best, they cannot experience the joy, confidence and triumph inherent in sports competition.
Thanks to Special Olympics Healthy Athletes®, an international program through which healthcare volunteers give free dental, vision, hearing and other screenings, Special Olympics Florida was able to provide about 7,500 health screenings in 2013. Perhaps more surprising is that in Florida, volunteers donated services at an estimated value of more than $1 million.
In early 2013, thanks to support from the Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD), Special Olympics Florida opened our first Healthy Community location, an initiative that builds upon and broadens Healthy Athletes® to ensure better follow-up on problems diagnosed through screenings, plus year-round health support to athletes and APD clients.
While Mr. McCoy’s dental needs had not yet reached our local health program, I am delighted to know that several dental professionals in Miami contacted the Miami Herald and generously reached out to embrace him and Special Olympics Florida.
We salute the people of Miami who have responded so generously to the Miami Herald’s Wish Book project and invite others to also take action and help Special Olympics Florida compete against health inequality as champions for our 24,000 Athletes throughout the state.
Sherry Wheelock, President/CEO Special Olympics Florida
Read the original story online at the MiamiHerald.com.