Community Highlight / January 10, 2019
BrightSpring Health Services periodically features leaders and employees who give back to their communities, helping people to live their best lives. Included is a story about how Vice President of Quality Systems Larry Weishaar is living out his legacy through the Special Olympics.
Larry Weishaar recalls assisting with Special Olympics events during his college days. For Larry, the Special Olympics is about seeing the athletes enjoy their time together and watching the families strengthen each other, benefiting the community at-large.
“With Special Olympics, I most enjoy the social interaction that the athletes are able to have,” Larry said. “Though they are competing against one another, it really isn’t a big deal to most if they don’t win. Just being involved and participating gives them such a sense of accomplishment. You can see the excitement on the athlete’s faces when they greet one another. It’s such a thrilling opportunity to see them train and compete together over the weeks, months and years.”
Now an active volunteer and board member, Larry and his wife have traveled together for 40 years, volunteering for Special Olympics events, including the Special Olympics 50th Anniversary celebration in Chicago, where an eternal flame was lit and dedicated to the organization and the athletes who have competed. During the 50th Anniversary celebration, Larry and his wife spoke with athletes from around the world and met the very first gold medalist, from the Special Olympics World Games in July 1968.
Larry is a big proponent for the Healthy Athletes program. In 1997, the Special Olympics introduced Healthy Athletes, a program offering free health screenings and education for Special Olympics athletes through a welcoming, fun environment. The Special Olympics is a physical competition and the organization is committed to keeping their athletes healthy – on and off the field. The screenings include physical, dental, vision and emotional well-being. Healthy Athletes has delivered over two million screenings since the program’s inception.
“Because of the Healthy Athletes program, athletes have been treated for possibly deadly illnesses that may not have been diagnosed,” Larry said.
Recently, Larry opened his home to a Special Olympics athlete Dionte Foster, a native of St. Kitts and Nevis in the Caribbean, who received a life-changing prosthetic leg during his stay.
Foster captured a tennis gold medal in the 2015 Special Olympics World Games in Los Angeles. After his victory match, doctors discovered bone cancer in his leg. Dionte’s left leg was amputated above the knee. He began treatment immediately after his surgery and within 11 months he was cancer-free. Despite the positive prognosis, Dionte still feared he would never be competitive at tennis again.
“Dionte Foster’s story is an example of Healthy Athletes,” Larry said. “Had he not been competing in the Special Olympics games in Los Angeles, his leg pain would have gone unnoticed and could have spread much further before diagnosis and he would most likely not be alive today.”
Three years after Dionte’s procedure, the Special Olympics secured Dionte free travel to Kentucky to visit a local health care clinic who offered to provide a prosthetic leg. During his stay, Larry and his wife opened their home to Dionte and his chaperone. They were thrilled to see Dionte receive his new leg and walk again for the first time in three years. Click here for local media coverage of Dionte’s journey.
“It was really amazing,” said Larry. “Seeing Dionte’s face light up when he received his prosthetic leg was such a joy,”
As Larry continues his volunteerism, he is on a mission to help the Special Olympics leave a lasting LEGACY. “We are so proud to support the Special Olympics because – just like BrightSpring – we are committed to helping people live their best life.”
Special Olympics is a global movement of people creating a new world of inclusion and community, where every single person is accepted and welcomed, regardless of ability or disability. They are helping to make the world a better, healthier and more joyful place — one athlete, one volunteer, one family member at a time.
The mission of Special Olympics is to provide year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities, giving them continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy and participate in a sharing of gifts, skills and friendship with their families, other Special Olympics athletes and the community. Click here to learn more about the Special Olympics.
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