Health Stories

Spoke with each of SOLA’s athlete leaders on Monday, November 22, 2021, regarding Thanksgiving meals and how their food choices will not only impact them but other family members/caregivers. We asked each of them what foods they liked, why they liked the foods and how did the food choices they made affect them after the Thanksgiving meal. Chris Thibodeaux responded with “ate some really good food choices which made him able to go outside and play basketball instead of taking a nap” Also, spoke with Mikey Love about his Thanksgiving Day meal, which consisted of making a huge plate, but wisely choosing a lot more vegetables, less starchy foods and no bread. Although he made a big plate, he found that he did not eat everything and even skipped dessert. His day also ended with going for a walk and hanging Christmas lights outside. The health programming is truly paying off by teaching athletes to make healthier choices daily and even on holidays!

Since implementing the USA Games Fitness Challenge of a collective weight-loss goal of 1,000 pounds, we are well on our way to success. Carson Phills, Manager of Unified Initiatives & Fitness is sending out reminders, and has received starting weights at the onset of the challenge and goals of not only the athletes, Unified Partners, and Coaches but the staff of SOLA as well. SOLA understands not everyone needs to lose weight, however, we are encouraging them to get moving by exercising and making better decisions regarding the foods they eat and beverages they drink. One of our athletes, Mikey Love, has begun his weight loss journey and is posting on social media about how he has made better food choices and is eating healthier has changed his body shape. This, in turn, is helping his performance in swimming and his other activities.

At SOLA’s December board meeting, Jill Egle athlete leader and board member, talked about how being an athlete has helped her in becoming more aware of how important good health is to Special Olympics Athletes. As she reads the memos that not only SOLA sends out about COVID and other health concerns but what SO sends out regarding good health and staying healthy. This was especially important to Jill, as her parents were recently diagnosed with COVID and the information helped Jill practice healthy protocols like staying away from her parents in a different part of the house, as well as wearing her mask inside her house and washing her hands MORE frequently than she already did during the time her parents had COVID. Our health programming is truly having a positive impact on the lives of athletes across Louisiana.

On Friday, December 10, 2021, Susan Murray, Athlete Programs Manager hosted a Zoom call with Athlete Leaders that included Mikey Love, Bailey Castille, Jason Kinney, and Brett Tabor. Bailey, Jason, and Brett would also like to be trained to be Health Messengers. On the call we discussed talked about Inclusive Athlete Leadership training and the components of Inclusive Athlete Leadership. We discussed how drinks provided at events/trainings which are typically Powerade, are full of sugar and how this affects people and better drink option choices for future events/trainings. Some of the better drink options we discussed were providing bottled water and individual flavor packets or lemons so the athletes could have better options to ultimately make better decisions. We also discussed the high sugar content in other soda products such as Coke, Sprite, and other soft drinks provided.

On January 30, 2022 Susan Murray, Athlete Program Manager, held a Zoom call for Athlete Leadership Training. Before the training began, Susan asked each of the athletes how they were doing with their training, health, exercise, and nutrition. Bailey Castille, who is from the Acadiana Area, stated she has not been feeling well for the past couple of weeks and despite feeling poorly, she has been getting her vegetables in along with staying hydrated with water as she said water helps her with hydration. As a result of her being sick, she has lost 9 pounds, however, she has continued to go to her job once a week, where she works with a local company that makes Meat Pies. Also, another athlete, Chris Thibodeaux, stated that he was in a car accident in April 2021 and as a result, has PTSD and is working with his doctor to overcome it. Chris started back running in June 2021 and has been taking it slowly to get his running pace back up to what it was before the accident. He stated that he has gained a few pounds since the accident due to not running but is getting back on track now and is determined to lose those few extra pounds he’s gained as he gets his strength back.

Helen Robinson, who is an athlete in our aquatics program and also serves on staff as SOLA’s Program Assistant. Helen began training in Aquatics in October 2021. She became a part of the Aquatics programs and becoming more involved with SOLA health programming, she has changed her eating habits and has been tracking her food and water intake. She makes healthy food choices and encourages her family and friends to eat healthier too. Helen is eating more protein and less sugar and has been increasing her water during the day and not drinking as many sugary drinks. Helen has lost a few pounds, however, she has learned how much sugar is in the different drink options including the coffee that she is getting at fast food restaurants in the mornings before work. Helen has started using sugar substitutes in her coffees as well as asking for low or no sugars in her coffees.

Susan Murray, Athlete Program manager spoke with Mikey Love toward the latter part of February regarding the Athlete Leadership training that was done with Brandon Schatsiek and other Athlete Leaders from across SONA. Mikey is honored to be a part of the SONA leadership training and is excited that there were several topics that athletes can take part in such as “Communication or Virtual Programming”, “Unified Leadership or Diversity” and “Equity and Inclusion”. Mikey is working on “Communication and Virtual Programming” as he has his own Podcast as well as serving as a guest speaker on Special Olympics Louisiana’s Podcast periodically. Mikey and Susan also discussed how he could enhance his Podcasts with the Health Messenger portion and who he needed to target…athletes first or their parents/caregivers, as Mikey believes that he should reach out to the parents/caregivers first because they primarily have access to social media; i.e., email, Facebook, etc. Mikey wants to make sure that athletes and parents/caregivers realize how important good health that includes healthy habits and exercise daily is and the positive impact it has on good health. Mikey has lost close to 20 pounds since becoming involved in SO health & fitness through changing his eating habits and exercise which has also impacted his whole family to begin healthier habits daily. Becoming a part of SO health and serving as a Health Messenger resulted in lifestyle changes for Mikey and his entire family too.

SOLA Athlete Leadership has 14 active athlete leaders who are learning about elevator speeches. A template was sent to athlete leader mentors for those that have not been involved in all aspects of being trained as a leader. Charlie Courville, who is one of the mentors, had 2 athlete leaders speak at one of SOLA’s area events by making introductions and assisting with distributing the awards. Several of our athletes who attended Healthy Hearing on Saturday, March 19, 2022, talked to me about having a lot of ear wax and having it removed while they were being evaluated. Several different athletes talked about how they were having difficulty hearing and that they had not had their hearing checked in a very long time. These were some of the athletes that needed follow-up care.

Without the Special Smiles Health Athletes event hosted on March 12, 2022, that provided the health screening exams for the 3 athletes that needed having cavities filled and tooth extractions, they would probably have reached the point of needing urgent care had it not been for them being evaluated through their Special Smiles health screening exam free of charge. Since these athletes went through the Special Smiles Healthy Athletes discipline, they were also provided with names of local dentists where they live through our referral system as they did not have a dentist for care. And without the Healthy Hearing Healthy Athletes event, the 5 athletes who needed a complete exam with their local audiologist, might have continued without an exam. All of the athletes that have attended both disciplines, were very happy that they were able to participate in this event as well as their parents and caregivers. Some of the parents and caregivers said, “they didn’t realize they needed the care they received through our program”. They were very grateful for the care that they received.

Several of the athletes at the MedFest in Shreveport talked to different medical personnel who were doing the physicals about how they liked going to this event better than to the doctor’s office. It’s clearing a fun, and friendly environment that makes them feel safe. The MedFest made them feel understood and “it was fun.”

At the MedFest in Shreveport at SPAR – Princess Park location, we had new athletes that came out to the event to sign up with Special Olympics. One of the athletes told his parent, “leave me alone, I can do this myself” speaking about going through the MedFest stations by himself. The father stated that “this is the first time he was stress-free going to the doctor.”

Health Messenger leaders Bailey Castille and Jason Kinney were able to put their knowledge into practice at State Summer Games as they spoke at Opening Ceremonies thanking all the sponsors, medical volunteers, coaches, fellow athletes, and SOLA staff for their commitment to improving health outcomes for people with ID and truly making a difference in lives of athlete’s. Bailey was quoted as saying, ” Athletes let’s compete with our hearts and let our sportsmanship shine.”

At the Young Health Athletes pediatric screening hosted on May 7, 2022, we had a child, Kayden Guidry that was seen who was severely autistic. He didn’t smile and only interacted with the adoptive parent. Kayden’s mom said that Kayden had never interacted with his primary doctor as he did with Dr. Agaja, the Dr. that saw him at our pediatric discipline, and the volunteers at the event. Kayden was smiling and interacting even though it was his nap time. His mom explained that she felt that no one had ever taken the time to provide Kayden with a good thorough check-up because of his disability. She was so great for this opportunity to be seen and thoroughly checked out. It was a great experience for all involved.

Click here to read: Michelle’s Story

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