“Let’s get movin’,” calls out, Special Olympics Wilkes County athlete Bobby Huffman as he enters the cardio room at the Wilkes Express YMCA in Wilkesboro. Huffman is among 20 Special Olympics Wilkes County athletes who are taking part in the Special Olympics North Carolina Healthy Athletes Challenge. This six-month long exercise and nutrition program has athletes in Wilkes, Ashe, Watuaga and Alleghany counties working out to reduce their Body Mass Index (BMI) and live healthier more active lives. (View Photos)
The Challenge, made possible for Special Olympics athletes through the GlaxoSmithKline Foundation Ribbon of Hope grant, is working. With the assistance of two YMCA locations, the Wilkes County athletes are training four days a week; utilizing stationary bicycles, treadmills, rowing machines, the greenway and walking track and the Sunshine Pool at the Northwest YMCA. Dramatic health improvements are being seen and felt by the athletes.
“Exercise is fun now because I get to do it with my friends,” said Kelly Dodge who has lost 16 pounds in the Challenge and was taken off his daily cholesterol medication by his doctor after his level dropped 50 points. Wayne Souther has lost 27 pounds in just two months, dropping from 322 to 295 pounds. Another athlete conquered their fear of the water and is now able to walk laps around the pool holding the edge during the water aerobics class.
“All the athletes have dropped weight and have increased their stamina and flexibility,” said Susan Allen, Special Olympics Wilkes County local coordinator. “The Challenge is helping them be better prepared for their sports competitions and they are having fun. The determination and dedication I’ve seen from them is just amazing! They are sweating and pushing themselves each and every day!”
Each county will also host a Special Olympics MedFest event which will allow individuals with intellectual disabilities to have their vision, hearing, and blood pressures checked as well as undergo a basic physical. Special Olympics wants all children and adults with intellectual disabilities to experience the transformative power of sports. Offering free health screenings/care and nutritional education to this population will increase their chances of getting active, playing sports, and living longer, healthier lives.