SALEM, Va. – The countdown continues to this year’s New River Polar Plunge, the largest fundraiser in southwest Virginia for the athletes and programs of Special Olympics Virginia.
Those programs happen both on and off the playing field, including the ‘Healthy Athletes’ program that addresses the health needs of athletes.
“Many, many of our athletes have less access to healthcare than the general population,” said Nancy Morehouse, Southwest Region Director for Special Olympics Virginia. “So we know that regular health checks and bringing people together with healthcare professionals is really, really important.”
‘Healthy Athletes’ offers free health screenings and education at Special Olympics events and can be life-changing for athletes.
Kareem Poindexter, a Roanoke athlete, experienced the impact of the program during the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games in Orlando, Florida.
“I went to Florida for soccer,” Poindexter said. “I concentrated on running. I played defense. I focused.”
While he had an amazing time on the field, he had a life-changing experience off it when a hearing screening during the Games revealed his hearing aids were broken. Through Special Olympics ‘Healthy Athletes’ program, he got new ones on the spot.
“I’m so happy!” Poindexter said. He said he can hear his coaches much better with his new hearing aids.
“When they go to state games or national games, I’ve had athletes have teeth pulled,” said Lenny Wedge, who has coached Poindexter in soccer and softball. “I’ve had them get new glasses. [Kareem] got new hearing aids and it’s just fantastic.”
The services ‘Healthy Athletes’ provides can make a big difference in an athlete’s life.
“It can also open doors for them for things like jobs and just general well-being and fitness,” Morehouse said.
With his hearing needs taken care of, Poindexter now has his sights set on more championships and gold medals.
“I won’t give up. I won’t,” Poindexter said.
Money raised through the New River Polar Plunge helps support the ‘Healthy Athletes’ program. Click here for more information about ‘Healthy Athletes.’
To sign up to take the Plunge or donate, click here.