The Cabarrus County community came together in full force to help Special Olympics North Carolina athletes and their families get more active. For four weeks, 30 participants in the Special Olympics Cabarrus County Wellness Program took free fitness and cooking classes thanks to community partnerships.
“I wanted to find a way to get my athletes more active during the winter when they may not be actively training in a sport,” explained Emily Riley, Special Olympics Cabarrus County’s local coordinator. “But I knew that it couldn’t all fall on me so I looked to the community for assistance and was blown away at the response.”
Donated cooking, Crossfit, yoga and Zumba classes were tailored for Special Olympics athletes and provided something for everyone’s interests. But Riley wanted to make sure athletes and family members alike were motivated to participate.
“The prize component was a great motivator! For every class an individual attended, they received five points. If they weren’t able to make a class, they had the option to do activities at home to earn one point each time. At the end of the four weeks, everyone redeemed their points for really cool prizes!” explained Riley.
However, athletes and families enjoyed the program just as much as the prizes.
“I’ve had family members tell me that they wish it was a year-round program which shows just how much this was needed in our community. And then I had one athlete come up to me at the Joy Prom and say ‘that cooking class was fun! When are we doing that again?’”
Like the participants, Riley is already looking forward to the next Wellness Program. She hopes to expand to a six-week program and incorporate statistical tracking in the summer. But more than anything else, she wants to see the Wellness Program grow and become a regular part of Special Olympics across the state.
“I hope more counties start Wellness Programs! The resources already exist and members of the community are so willing to help Special Olympics athletes get healthier.”
For more information on starting a Wellness Program in your community or other Special Olympics health programming, please contact Ellen Fahey, SONC Health Director.