Special Olympics Florida

Happy First Birthday Healthy Community!

Posted on January 27, 2014 | Posted in Health Programs

The following is a guest post from Karlyn Emile, Director of the Special Olympics Florida Healthy Community location in South Florida.

Healthy Community is a premier health care delivery approach that focuses on the whole person with an intellectual or developmental disability.  At Special Olympics Florida and Healthy Community, we believe that good health is necessary for these individuals to secure the freedom to work, learn, and better engage with their families and communities. For these reasons, Special Olympics Florida compiled specific goals and objectives to ensure the success of the newly launched Healthy Community in Hollywood, FL after it opened its doors for the first time in February 2013. Those goals include the following:

  • Health screenings with timely follow-up
  • A wellness program to support total well-being
  • Community-based outreach throughout South Florida
  • To partner and collaborate with premier healthcare providers and universities
  • Raise awareness of intellectual and developmental disabilities
  • Increase volunteer opportunities and activities related to health and sport

We are excited to announce that within a year of opening our doors we have made tremendous headway on achieving our goals. To date, 826 health screenings have been conducted in four disciplines: hearing, dental, sports physicals and health promotion. The recipients of these screenings are not only Special Olympics athletes but are also from surrounding adult day care programs, the Lucanus Developmental Center, the Agency for Persons with Disabilities and anyone from the community with an intellectual or developmental disability who requires a health screening.

As a result of our screenings throughout the year, 120 individuals were referred to local Medicaid providers and partnering clinics for follow-up care; most of our clients were able to fulfill these referral appointments.

It has been said that hearing is a precious gift, but there is nothing quite like seeing an individual receive the gift of hearing after many years of almost silence. Last year, the South Florida Healthy Community fitted and dispensed 12 free hearing aids for those who qualified thanks to the generosity of Phonak, who donated the devices, and of our dedicated healthcare volunteers. The initial reactions of clients who received new hearing aids were both enlightening and poignant:

After her sister received free hearing aid, Rosa stated happily, “Now my sister will not have to yell at me anymore.”

Jean, after receiving her free hearing aid, shared that, “I won’t ignore people when they are talking to me.”

Health & Wellness

South Florida Healthy Community is always looking for innovative ways to improve the lives of individuals with special needs. In addition to screenings, in 2013 we also developed a wellness program. Healthy Community now provides weekly nutrition classes, snack options, daily exercise classes and hydration education twice daily. Incredibly, these classes serve 297 individuals who get to participate at least twice throughout the week.  Because of this overwhelming success we are hoping to grow our classes in 2014, but we will need volunteers who can help us to do this.

Another success was the development of our Family Health Forum. During three different forums, we were able to not only work with adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, but also include their family members and caregivers in these healthy habits and healthy lifestyle programs.

  • On June 29, 2013, our forum discussed nutrition. There were 84 clients, caregivers, guardians, parents and volunteers who attended. Many of our healthcare volunteers were from the FIU School of Public Health and Miami Dade College School of Nursing.
  • On August 24, 2013, our forum covered obesity and diabetes prevention. We had an audience of 34 attendees, including volunteers from the American Diabetes Association, FIU and Lions Club Hollywood.
  • On September 28, 2013, a group of 56 individuals attended our forum on fitness and physical activity, as well as a fitness demonstration. We also welcomed student volunteers from FIU, McArthur High School and Barry University, who helped facilitate the class.

We could not have done all of this without the support and partnerships of individuals, students, medical institutions and healthcare providers within our community. They understand that this population is often overlooked or forgotten and we are grateful that so many are receptive to the idea of teaching individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities about healthy living so they can improve their overall health and wellbeing.

In 2013, we had the support of 62 healthcare professionals and over 100 volunteers and 3 interns from the following institutions: Florida International University, Nova Southeastern University, Chamberlain College of Nursing, Barry University, Miami Dade College, and Hollywood Diagnostic Center. Additionally, our first year would not have been as much of a success without those volunteers who serve tirelessly and selflessly, especially our faithful Clinical Directors: 

Special Smiles

Dr. Diane Ede-Nichols

Dr. Eyad  Shehadeh

Kerri Cook, RDH

Healthy Hearing

Dr. Jackie Davie

Dr. Sarah Wakefield

Health Promotion

Dr. Rashida Biggs

Dr. Melissa Howard

Karlyn Emile, MPH, CHES


Dr. Jaclyn Tolentino

Dolly Roldan, ARNP

Fit Feet

Dr. Marc Colaluce, D.P.M.

We are very excited about the successes we’ve experienced in our first year and we look forward to an even more fruitful year in 2014. Together, we can be proud to impact so many lives for the better.

Want to know more about how you can become a healthcare volunteer or Clinical Director? Visit the Healthy Athlete section of our website for more information.


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One thought on “Happy First Birthday Healthy Community!

  1. Nancy Sawyer

    We are so proud of what Karlyn and her team of volunteer health professional screeners, clinical directors, instructors , partners and students have done for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities , improving the quality of their lives through increased health, wellness, and nutritional activities. Special thanks to our partner Lucanus for making this incredible facility available for our first Special Olympics Florida Healthy Community site.
    Nancy Sawyer
    Sr. VP Healthy Communities & Athlete Leadership
    Special Olympics Florida

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