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updated: 11/10/2017 8:38 AM

MedFest provides Special Olympics Illinois athletes 19 years of free sports physicals, eye exams

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  • Special Olympics Illinois athletes receive free sports physicals from Advocate Medical Group volunteers at the United Center. Gina Fasolo, Special Olympics Illinois

    Special Olympics Illinois athletes receive free sports physicals from Advocate Medical Group volunteers at the United Center. Gina Fasolo, Special Olympics Illinois

 
Gina Fasolo, Special Olympics Illinois

Play like you practice: What better place to get athletes prepared for a big competition than where they compete?

Over 1,400 aspiring and current Special Olympics Athletes from across the city of Chicago attended the 19th Annual Healthy Athletes MedFest, where they received free sports physicals from over 125 volunteer health professionals from Advocate Medical Group. Since inception, an outstanding 26,000 exams have been given.

The Chicago MedFest provides Chicago Public Schools, the Chicago Park District and Independent Agencies serving individuals with special needs (and their peers from other service agencies) the opportunity to receive a complete -- and completely free -- sports physical from our medical partners at Advocate Medical Group. Once a physical examination indicates that it is safe for someone to become a Special Olympics athlete, the athlete is cleared to begin training, competition and routine physical activity expected for participation in his or her sport.

Beyond the free sports physical, MedFest introduces athletes to structured Special Olympics activities, allowing them to maintain habits for a healthier lifestyle year round and potentially reducing or preventing future health concerns. This event is a model of service that has been adopted worldwide.

For 19 years, the Chicago Medfest has made the seemingly impossible happen, year after year. Medfest could not happen without the continuous support of The United Center, Levy Restaurants, and the Advocate Medical Group, all three organizations have opened their doors and dedicated staff to MedFest for 19 amazing years.

The slogan "Not All Heroes Wear Capes," is an apt descriptor for event partners and providers from Advocate Medical Group. Their health professionals travel from all ends of the state just to volunteer at MedFest. The more than 125 health professionals who routinely attend have called this day "better than Christmas". Athletes and the health professionals look forward to this event every year.

"We have an overabundance of volunteers, where we actually have to turn people down because our staff is so interested in participating in this annual event," Dr. Richard Bone, Vice President of Medical Management in the south region of Advocate Medical Group.

Dr. Richard Bone hit the ground running and for multiple years, has taken the lead with Advocate's continuous support of Medfest. Advocate and Dr. Bone have been a strong resource for expansion of different Medfests around the state. Advocate supports the Bloomington Illinois, Southern Cook County, and single school MedFests along with the Chicago MedFest.

MedFest creates an extremely positive experience for the Advocate medical professionals in every field. This event often introduces medical students to individuals with intellectual disabilities in a very relaxed environment. MedFest takes an unfamiliar and a little bit scary situation and turns it into a comfortable atmosphere for the athletes.

In its history, MedFest has received financial support from Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, Astellas USA Foundation, Mattel, GE, Topfer Family Foundation, Lion's Club International, Cashel Foundation, and the Dr. Scholl Foundation -- among other corporate and individual donors. These generous partners have helped us secure transportation to and from the event for athletes from every neighborhood in the city, as well as provided for hospitality and warm long-sleeve event shirts (a must when the ice is down in the United Center!) for our volunteer medical staff.

This event is impactful for more than its number of athletes served; it is remembered for its continuous welcoming smiles, endless stickers, and countless high fives.

Special Olympics Illinois is a not-for-profit organization offering year-round training and competition in 17 sports for more than 22,500 athletes with intellectual disabilities and nearly 20,000 Young Athletes ages 2-7 with and without intellectual disabilities. If you are interested in learning more about Special Olympics Illinois visit www.soill.org.