Special Olympics British Columbia British Columbia

Healthy Athletes Fort St. John powered by positive participants and volunteers

17 May 2017

Northern B.C. individuals with intellectual disabilities had the opportunity to access valuable health screenings and information at the Special Olympics BC Healthy Athletes Screening Day in Fort St. John in April, thanks to the generous support of volunteers and sponsors.

The event welcomed 45 participants, including Special Olympics BC athletes from Fort St. John and Dawson Creek as well as other local individuals with intellectual disabilities, ranging in age from nine to 71. The diverse participants were a pleasure to work with, according to volunteers Angela and Cory Thompson.

“Cory and I really noticed the enthusiasm of the athletes. They had such a positive attitude. We also observed how supportive they were of each other,” Angela Thompson wrote in an email. “We had such positive interactions with the athletes. They were patient when we had a lineup at our station, and they were eager to participate.”

Individuals with intellectual disabilities experience many challenges trying to access health care and communicate their needs, leading to serious issues in their health and wellbeing. Through Healthy Athletes, they receive free, fun screenings and education in a supportive environment, and health care practitioners receive training about the specific health care concerns of people with intellectual disabilities and how to ask the right questions, helping them draw out issues. The screenings lead to referrals back into the health care system that ensure the individuals with intellectual disabilities will get the treatment they need.

Three types of Healthy Athletes screenings were on offer in Fort St. John: Health Promotion, FUNfitness, and Strong Minds. The participants went home with valuable nutrition and health education and tools and will receive followup cards in the mail to help make sure they will be able to access any care they need.

Angela Thompson, who is a registered massage therapist, said she was drawn to help with Healthy Athletes because she volunteered with Special Olympics in high school and remembered “how much fun it was,” and also because she was struck by the “statistics of how many people with intellectual disabilities did not have access to health services in their communities.”

“As a Massage Therapist in Fort St. John, I realized that I don’t have many patients with disabilities. I felt it was important to meet the athletes and the caregivers in my community and I hope that when they are in need they will feel comfortable contacting me.”

As a result of her experience volunteering with the FUNfitness screenings, Thompson said she “will definitely consider doing more baseline measures of active range of motion with my patients. Often we don’t keep track until there has been a loss of movement.”

Local community volunteers like the Thompsons were a hugely appreciated part of the event. While getting volunteer support can sometimes be more challenging in a smaller community, Fort St. John volunteers really came through in giving their time to make the screenings possible, especially impressive since the event took place during school spring break.

“Cory and I had such a positive experience as volunteers. It was very rewarding and we would love to do it again,” Angela Thompson said.

The event was met with a lot of appreciation from the local participants and discussion of how to bring such programs back to the community.

SOBC’s Healthy Athletes program and overall health initiatives seek to help address the critical health challenges facing individuals with intellectual disabilities. Globally, millions of people with intellectual disabilities lack access to quality health care and experience dramatically higher rates of preventable disease, chronic pain and suffering, and premature death in every country around the world. In developing and developed countries alike, people with intellectual disabilities are consistently one of the most marginalized population subsets – a status that comes with tragic health outcomes, including dramatically higher rates of premature death and obesity.

Data from B.C. Healthy Athletes screenings from 2011 to September 2016 shows the significant needs and unaddressed issues among our province’s athletes, including:

  • More than 93.3 per cent of athletes screened had balance and flexibility issues identified, while 81.9 per cent had strength problems identified;
  • 73.7 per cent had gingival signs;
  • 63.1 per cent had gait abnormalities;
  • 46.9 per cent needed a new eyesight prescription;
  • 37.8 per cent had blocked or partially blocked ear canals; and
  • 35.6 per cent are obese.

These statistics are all comparable to or higher than the global population of individuals with intellectual disabilities who participated in Healthy Athletes screenings between 2011 and September 2016.

Trying to identify and combat these issues, since 2011 SOBC has delivered 3,249 Healthy Athletes screenings in six disciplines (not including screenings in the Strong Minds discipline, a recent addition as a Canadian pilot project).

Healthy Athletes volunteers are able to identify such untreated issues with the help of their Special Olympics training and the positive, supportive environment they create at the screenings. Watch athlete Corey Yee and his aunt Judy share their Healthy Athletes experience:


We are so grateful for the ongoing support of Special Olympics BC health sponsors including Westminster Savings Credit Union*, and Special Olympics Health sponsors including the Golisano Foundation, who play such a critical part in making this important work possible.

Learn more about SOBC health initiatives

Thanks to Angela, Cory, and all the volunteers who gave their time to the SOBC Healthy Athletes Screening Day in Fort St. John!

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Upcoming health events

Vancouver February 24
Vancouver youth-only screening Feb 25
Castlegar tentatively weekend of March 17-18
Prince Rupert weekend of May 12-13

Healthy Athletes stories

2017 screening events:
Fort St. John

2016 screening events:
North Vancouver
Prince George

2015 screening events:
Vancouver and Kamloops

2014 screening events:
SOC 2014 Summer Games

2013 screening events:
2013 SOBC Summer Games
Victoria and Cranbrook

2012 screening events:
Prince George

2011 Healthy Athletes Wellness Day

Province of B.C. supports Healthy Athletes

Athlete Health Resources

Please click here


"Working with Special Olympics has been an eye-opener. The athletes have such a positive attitude and have overcome so many obstacles it is a great reminder that anything is possible. The athletes are so appreciative it makes all the effort and planning worthwhile!"
-Nazima, health professional

“Everyone’s been dedicating their time, and that’s what stood out for me the most. I can’t believe this is happening, all these people putting in their time and effort doing this, this is a lot of work."
-Conrad, SOBC athlete, at the 2012 Healthy Athletes Screening Day

“It is the most wonderful feeling at Provincial Games to see the amazing health practitioners involved in the Special Olympics BC Healthy Athletes program. They take the time to check the eyes of every athlete. If prescription glasses are needed they are given for free, and if not, the athlete gets to pick out a pair of sunglasses. Healthy Athletes is such a great gift to all the participants.”
SOBC coach Jim Cormier