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Friday, September 29, 2023


Special Olympics, UH host health fair

Members of Houston’s special needs community attended a health fair at UH aimed at informing them about local healthcare services and registering participants in future Special Olympics events.

The Special Olympics Texas Families Resource and Health Fair, hosted by UH’s College of Optometry at the University Eye Institute, is the first time Special Olympics Texas (SOTX) athletes have gathered without a sports competition taking place.

The idea for the health fair came from “several parties,” Special Olympics Program Associate for Greater Houston Hillary Nyert said.

“(One of our doctors) with the Special Smile Program, came to the Houston area for the Special Olympics and made the suggestion to SOTX and UH Clinical Associative Professor Ralph Herring, that they should help the athletes from a different level,” Nyert said.

Along with healthcare services, the event hopes to recruit new participants for local SOTX events.

“The health fair is a recruitment tool for getting new athletes to participate in the Special Olympics and also for the registered 3,800 athletes in the Houston area that only want to be part of local competitions,” Herring said.

At the event, both children and adults received free dental, hearing, and eye screenings from specialists and students from UH, the University of Texas Dental Branch and Lamar High School.

“We want this population of people to know that they can be cared for,” Herring said. “(The) students…that are here to teach these people about family resources and health wouldn’t be here unless they wanted to help.”

Seminars were also held to educate athletes and their families about financial planning for families with special needs, basics for special education, guardianship and community services.

“The main purpose (of the fair) was to offer healthcare,” Program Director for Special Olympics for Greater Houston Rene Klovenski said.

With the help of the health fair, along with state and national competitions for the Special Olympics, the athletes and the Houston area have been made aware of what is available.

“There is a lack of health care for this population, (which has) been ignored and pushed to the side for health care, jobs, etc.,” Herring said. “These are great people to be around, they enjoy doing the things that you and I take for granted.”

To make sure everyone who attended the event continues to have access to health care, SOTX is developing a project to keep track of every participant and any medical issues they may have.

In a UH news release, Herring said 350 potential or current athletes were expected. Official numbers were not available at press time.

“This is a new and unique opportunity for UH and the College of Optometry to give back to the community, these gifted athletes and their supporters,” Herring said in the release.

Other organizations that participated in the event were the Down Syndrome Association of Houston, Healthy Hearing, Christus St. John and Christus St. Catherine hospitals.

For additional information about Special Olympics Texas, visit

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