Philanthropist and Paychex founder Tom Golisano was honored Friday at RIT for his contributions to global health, specifically through Special Olympics.
Golisano’s effort to improve the health of people with intellectual disabilities is being celebrated with a special exhibit in the atrium of the College of Computing and Information Sciences that bears his name.
Golisano donated $37 million to start what is called ‘Healthy Communities ‘ five years ago, which helps screen Special Olympics athletes for a range of health issues.
And Golisano says that effort continues to expand on a global basis.
“It’s such a worthwhile cause and effort, there’s no reason why it shouldn’t expand, there’s been other contributors to the program, which have helped finance it. And the goodwill of the medical community to help out voluntarily, that’s terrific,” he told WXXI News.
Golisano says the need for those services has been critically important.
“When 40 percent of athletes that show up at an athletic event for Special Olympics have some sort of deficiency, eyes, ears, teeth, feet, that’s a real problem. And we’re able to get volunteer doctors to come out, diagnose these young people and in some cases give immediate relief to whatever their need is.”
Javier Vazquez is senior director of health systems at Special Olympics International and he says helping people who have intellectual disabilities with their health issues has a ripple effect.
“If they access healthcare, then they are able to enjoy, all the other rights; they are able to go to school, to go to work , to have a family, so as you can see this investment is really going beyond the health approach.”
Ann Costello is executive director of the Golisano Foundation. She says this effort involves more than just making donations.
“It’s not only about making a financial contribution, it is about getting involved, there’s lots of volunteer opportunities and people have connections all over the world, maybe with universities or families and Special Olympics is everywhere so there’s opportunities to get involved and make a difference.”
The Golisano Archives exhibit focusing on healthy communities and Special Olympics will continue over the next year.
This story is reported from WXXI’s Inclusion Desk.
Video about the Healthy Communities effort by WXXI's Martin Kaufman.