On November 6, 2019, the United Center
hosted the 21st Annual Special Olympics Illinois MedFest. The 2019 MedFest
brought over 1,700 aspiring and current Special Olympics athletes from across
the city of Chicago to the United Center.
Athletes received free sports
physicals from over 100 health professionals from Advocate Medical Group. Since
its inception, an outstanding 29,000 exams have been given.
MedFest provides Chicago Public
Schools, the Chicago Park District, and Independent 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
the individual is healthy, 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 a variety of health initiatives such as Opening
Eyes and Healthy Habits Stations (Hydration & Physical Activity).
Opening Eyes provided by Lions
International supplied over 170 athletes free eye exams and eyewear. The
Hydration Station saw around 300 athletes. There, athletes learned about
healthy drink choices.
The Physical Activity station was a
massive hit for athletes. Athletes chose from a variety of exercises such as
jumping jacks or pushup then competed to see how many of each activity they
could complete in 30 seconds. Additionally, athletes learned other healthy tips
such as limiting TV time and getting a good night’s rest.
MedFest and its’ 21 years of entirety
could not be what it is today without dedicated volunteers. Over 200 people
volunteered this year alone– stemming from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois,
Ridgewood High School, St. Rita High School, United Airlines, United Center,
and Walgreens, to name a few.
From donating the venue space to the
event production, hospitality, medial, and security staff, the United Center
sources a volunteer base from many different departments making them an integral
part of the success of the event.
“Volunteering at Special Olympics
Illinois’s MedFest is such a rewarding experience,” said Robert Reynolds – an
employee at Walgreens headquarters in Deerfield, Illinois.
Robert has been involved with MedFest
for a couple of years. He was so enthralled by the event and its’ impact he
later proposed the idea of volunteering to his colleagues at Walgreens.
“The best part of MedFest is, without a doubt,
the athletes– their smiles, joy, and high-fives.” Robert encouraged his
colleagues, like Kaenye Prince, to join him.
“This year is my second year of
volunteering at MedFest,” explained Kaenye.
“I volunteer to give back to the
community, yet I leave MedFest with a renewed sense of joy and fulfillment,
which comes from the athletes, and the daily obstacles they may face.”
MedFest would not be possible without
the continuous support of The United Center, Advocate Medical Group, Blue Cross
Blue Shield of Illinois, Levy Restaurants, Jewel Osco, and Astellas, local high
schools -St. Rita and Ridgewood. These partners have dedicated their time and
staff to MedFest for 21 incredible years.
Healthy Athletes Cooking Demonstration
On July 16th, 2018 Special Olympics Illinois hosted the first-ever Healthy Athletes Cooking Demonstration. Collaborating with Entercom’s Culinary Kitchen, Steak 48 Executive Chef Brian Key, and Private Chef El Mehdi Fatat to prepare delicious dishes with Special Olympics Illinois athletes.
With Healthy Athletes, Special Olympics has become the largest public health organization specifically for people with intellectual disabilities.
Special Olympics Illinois currently offers 6 different health screening programs throughout the state: FUNFitness (physical therapy), Healthy Hearing (audiology), MedFest (sports physical exam), Opening Eyes (vision), Healthy Promotion and Special Smiles (dentistry).
Officially launched in 1997, Healthy Athletes organizes its events in a welcoming, fun environment. Its screenings educate athletes on healthy lifestyle choices and identify problems that may need additional follow-up.
20 Years of Dedication
On November 5, 2018, the United Center hosted the 20th Annual Special Olympics Illinois MedFest. The 2018 MedFest brought 1,557 aspiring and current Special Olympics athletes from across the city of Chicago to the United Center. Athletes received free sports physicals from over 130 health professionals from Advocate Medical Group.
Special Olympics Illinois provided transportation to and from the event for all athletes, bringing them in from a network of Chicago Public Schools, the Chicago Park District, and private institutions.
Ernan Carranza, Special Olympics Illinois athlete from Graham Elementary had a great first experience at MedFest. “The doctors were very nice and made me feel comfortable and relaxed while getting my exam.”
For 20 years, the Chicago Medfest has made the seemingly impossible happen. Medfest could not happen without the continuous support of The United Center, Advocate Medical Group, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois and Levy Restaurants; the organizations have opened their doors and dedicated staff to MedFest for 20 amazing years.
“We are kind of lucky; as doctors and nurses, our job description states how we can better serve our community. When you have the opportunity to serve people with even greater challenges, it causes you to pause & reflect- you feel like your work has meaning,” said Dr. Tony Hampton, a family medicine physician with Advocate Medical Group.
Dr. Hampton has been volunteering at MedFest for the past 8 years. After year one of volunteering, Tony was hooked. He began volunteering as a way to get out and give back to his community. Every year Tony leaves MedFest feeling inspired.
“I love MedFest because it allows me to compete in the sports I love, such as basketball and track & field,” said Javier Velez- Special Olympics Illinois athlete from Graham Elementary.
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.
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 its inception, 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.
Advocate Medical Group
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 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 strong resources for the 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 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!
Graduate Nursing Program Clinical Experience with Special Olympics- Presentation in Ireland
This upcoming month at the end of July, Special Olympics has the amazing opportunity to have their voice heard even stronger across the world, in Dublin, Ireland. Doctors Melissa A. Murphey and Kathleen A. Muglia have taken a different step to teaching their nursing students at Resurrection University in Chicago, IL. These university educators have taken on the incredible task of travelling to six different secondary schools all across Chicago from November 2016 up until February of 2017 to provide physical exams to those who are in need of it the most. These schools consist of Vaughn Occupational High School, Northside Learning, Southside Occupational, Christopher School, and Ray Graham School.
The educators and young professionals decided it would be not only a learning experience, but also a better life experience for them and their students to provide physical exams to patients with special needs. The purpose of this journey was to pair nurse practitioner students to expose the athletes with different needs and in turn to fulfill their need for physical exams in term of their needs. The key focuses of educating these individuals were exercise and proper nutrition. The doctors and their students really wanted these individuals to better understand the risks that are associated with health issues, such as obesity.
Dr. Melissa Murphey was more than happy to speak to us at Special Olympics Illinois to give more information about this incredible opportunity she has to present and speak about this experience at the end of July in Dublin, Ireland at Sigma Theta Tau’s 28th International Nursing Research Congress. Her accepted research is titled, “Collaboration with Special Olympics: Graduate Nursing Program Successful Clinical Experience.” Dr. Murphey chose to collaborate with Special Olympics because the University that she works for has a long-standing relationship with Special Olympics. She has enjoyed working with Special Olympics in the past and her partner, Dr. Kathleen Muglia, who was previously the Dean really enjoyed meeting the athletes. It is a great opportunity for the nurse practitioner students to be exposed to all different things and learn more than they could anywhere else.
Dr. Murphey has collaborated with Special Olympics for a year and half prior to her taking over as Dean. Her co-worker, Dr. Muglia has also collaborated with Special Olympics before as well. Dr. Murphey states, “Special Olympics provides a diverse learning experience for athletes and students. When you are evaluating high school age students and see large numbers of these students you are exposed to so many differences within the athletes and the nursing students are given such a great learning experience. They all really enjoy it.”
When collaborating with Special Olympics, Dr. Murphey mentioned how her and one of her past co-workers, Mike Rackov, have tried to pair up with inner city Chicago schools in the past because it is a nice opportunity for the doctors and their students to perform a lot of physical exams. She also mentioned how it can often be difficult and expensive for some parents to get out to do the exams, so it is helping the parents and their children just as much as it is a lesson for the nursing students.
In Dr. Murphey and Dr. Muglia’s synopsis conclusion, they state “Clinical educators should capitalize on diverse learning experience to provide a more unique learning experience for their graduate student population.” Dr. Melissa Murphey went into more detail with this by stating, “Working with and exposing the students to cerebral palsy and graduate nursing education are taught and there are different methods of determining developmental delay. In pairing these students and completing these exams, we learned that over and over again it shows us how much it transforms their learning. It is more hands on and more effective than sitting down and looking at a PowerPoint. It was also more of an opportunity for them then it was of a scientific one for us. It can be challenging and competitive, but it is a collaborative partnership.”
Educating the caregivers and patients on the importance of exercise and proper nutrition led to further understanding of the risks associated with obesity because what these doctors have bounded in their students at the time was height and weight. If students were in the higher body index, which is greater than 30, it is considered obese. To help prevent this, the students and doctors taught these individuals more about proper eating habits and ways to effectively keep up with their health. Partnering with Special Olympics helped broaden the clinical residency experience of the nurse practitioner students with their graduate nursing program by exposing them to a lot more physical elements and challenges that Special Olympics athletes face. It helps show these students that it is easier and more memorable to collaborate and examine these patients in person than it would be in just learning about them in a model way.
The importance of Special Olympic athletes keeping up with their physical exams is extremely high because it is more than just meeting the requirements. It is always helpful to stay up to date with physical exams and focus on what might be bothering the athletes physically within their bodies, especially with elements such as their heart and lungs. A good thorough exam is always a high priority for these athletes.
One big thing Dr. Murphey mentions that she has learned from collaborating with Special Olympics and that she will use in the future throughout her career is learning about adolescence with special needs has made her extremely grateful and very willing to learn. It has been a wonderful educational experience for both herself as an educator and it is so very rewarding. It has helped make her more grateful for her health and every time she leaves an event with Special Olympics, she feels extremely rewarded.