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Salus University Health Volunteers at Special Olympics Fall Fest

On Saturday, November 4, volunteers at the Special Olympics Fall Festival event provided vision and hearing screenings to over a hundred athletes as part of the Lions Club International Opening Eyes project and the Special Olympics Healthy Hearing program. 

Volunteers consisted of The Eye Institute and Pennsylvania Ear Institute doctors, Doctor of Optometry students from the University’s Pennsylvania College of Optometry (PCO) and Doctor of Audiology students from the University’s Osborne College of Audiology, in addition to Lions Club members, UPenn students, and other friends and family members. Together Opening Eyes volunteers screened 131 athletes and ordered or dispensed 185 pairs of glasses. Healthy Hearing volunteers screened over 150 athletes and referred 40 for further testing or hearing aids. 

Opening eyes group photo

The Special Olympics Fall Festival is the largest student-run Special Olympics event in the world. It brings together more than 1,000 athletes and coaches from all across the state to compete in various athletic competitions over a three-day weekend. This year the 35th annual event was held at Villanova University from November 3 to 5. The festival offers a variety of health screenings to athletes through the Special Olympics Healthy Athletes Program, including Opening Eyes, Healthy Hearing, Special Smiles (dentistry), Strong Minds (emotional health), and more. 

“It's an incredibly important program to address the healthcare needs of people with intellectual disabilities, and it's also a great opportunity for our students to really get some wonderful field experience. They always have a fantastic time, they get to work with a population that they don't necessarily see very often in the clinic,” says Lindsay Bondurant, PhD, CCC-A, Pennsylvania Ear Institute director, who started the Healthy Hearing program for Special Olympics Pennsylvania in 2001 and supervised this year's volunteers. 

Dr. Bondurant and Erin Sherman, OD ‘16, FAAO, PCO assistant professor and clinical instructor at The Eye Institute, who oversaw the Opening Eyes volunteers, were very grateful to the volunteers who provided their time and expertise to make the day a success and look forward to next year’s event. 

“It's a long day and it's exhausting but it's just so much fun,” says Dr. Bondurant.