Health & Wellness

Health and Fitness is one of Special Olympics North Carolina’s key components to our 2016-2020 strategic plan. Despite our impact via sports, Special Olympics’ research has shown that people with intellectual disabilities (ID) are consistently left out of health systems that are ill-equipped to diagnose and treat them. Medical professionals recognize how many people can be reached by partnering with SONC. Not surprisingly, our athlete leadership of Special Olympics NC has identified “Health, Fitness, and Nutrition” as a top priority for the organization to address.

View the 2017-18 SONC Health Report

The vision of the Special Olympics Health program, made possible by the Golisano Foundation, is to create a future world where people with intellectual disabilities have the same opportunities to be as healthy as people without intellectual disabilities and, in doing so, Special Olympics athletes can perform to their best on and off the playing field. Barriers to this vision include lack of access to quality health care, education, and resources. To address the health disparities our athletes face, Special Olympics Health is leading a number of integrated and complementary efforts to strengthen the capacity of existing systems of care.

With more than 1.6 million free health examinations conducted in more than 130 countries, the Special Olympics Healthy Athletes® program offers health services and information to athletes in dire need. As a result, Special Olympics has become the largest global public health organization dedicated to serving people with intellectual disabilities. Special Olympics North Carolina is doing its part to make sure North Carolina will be among the leaders in improving the health of children and adults with intellectual disabilities.

Over the next five years, SONC seeks to build better, healthier communities through a more holistic approach to health, fitness, nutrition and inclusion. As part of our new strategic plan, we will increase our existing Healthy Athlete screenings and also offer programs that are more accessible locally with a focus on healthy lifestyles (including nutrition). We will also incorporate Healthy Communities programming into our ongoing sports programs which have seen tremendous success throughout North Carolina by involving nearly 40,000 registered athletes in our program. Good health goes hand-in-hand with participation in sport.

Our goal is to help our athletes lead healthy lives where they are accepted as productive and contributing members of their communities. To succeed in achieving this ambitious vision, we are assembling partners who also embrace it.

Healthy Athletes Disciplines in NC


Provides free screenings and education on balance, flexibility and strength by physical therapists.

Health Promotions

Provides education and resources for healthy life choices including sun safety, tobacco cessation, and healthy diet.

Healthy Hearing

The Special Olympics Healthy Hearing program provides free ear and hearing screenings designed to ensure proper audiological care for participating Special Olympics athletes.


Offers the physical exam that athletes need prior to participating in Special Olympics sports programming. To find a MedFest in your area or to learn more click here.

Opening Eyes

Provides free vision screening and assistance to athletes in need of protective eye wear or even new glasses.

Special Smiles

Provides dental screenings, free toothbrushes, teeth cleaning tips and mouth guards as needed.

Strong Minds

Provides resources to help athletes with coping skills and strategies to manage stress in both competition and in life.

Fit Feet

Special Olympics North Carolina is currently seeking a Fit Feet Clinical Director to join the Fit Feet team. If you are a medical professional in this field and are interested, please contact Ellen Fahey.

Summer Games Screenings Results

During the 2018 SONC Summer Games, 896 health screenings were conducted in six Healthy Athletes disciplines, thanks to more than 200 volunteers. Check out this infographic to learn more.

Summer Games 2018 HA Infographic by elmfahey

Health Resources

Health Professionals Wanted

Special Olympics NC is always looking for qualified medical professionals to assist with any of the Healthy Athletes disciplines.

Special Olympics North Carolina is currently seeking a Fit Feet Clinical Director to join the Fit Feet team. If you are a medical professional in this field and are interested, please contact Ellen Fahey.


• A variety of “Healthy Athletes” initiatives are available that increase health awareness and provide free health screenings in up to eight health disciplines in our state.

• Over the past three years (2013-2015), SONC has conducted nearly 40 screening events and examined 3,000 athletes. For some, these screenings are the first time they have ever seen a doctor or medical professional.

• Special Olympics “Healthy Communities” programs build on the success of Healthy Athletes to further improve the health status and increase access to community health resources for athletes with ID. With a multi-year grant from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, SONC has hired a full time Health Director in 2016 and, with additional support from the Golisano Foundation, implements a year round health and wellness program