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Tom Golisano gives Special Olympics $30M, its largest gift to date

Tom Golisano watches as a Special Olympics man is screened by a health professional.
Special Olympics
Tom Golisano (standing center) will provide $30 million to expand the Special Olympics Healthy Communities program.

Special Olympics has received its largest single private monetary donation in its 53-year history.

On Thursday, the global sports organization for people with disabilities announced that Paychex founder, Tom Golisano, is donating $30 million to expand its Healthy Communities program. The program provides healthcare services to people with intellectual disabilities.

“People with intellectual disabilities have always been a top priority for him because his son has intellectual disabilities,” said Ann Costello, executive director of the Golisano Foundation.

She said Special Olympics’ track record in improving access to such care correlates with the foundation’s mission.

“Tom believes that this is the kind of initiative or movement, if you will, that you just have to stay with and keep at it,” Costello said.

Over the course of their 10-year partnership, the Golisano Foundation has donated roughly $37 million to Special Olympics. This latest donation will help the program expand to hundreds more domestic and global regions with an emphasis on virtual services.

“Our goals over the next five years are to continue training health care professionals through the Golisano virtual university,” said Dr. Alicia Bazzano, Special Olympics chief health officer. “We want to train 100,000 healthcare professionals around the world and get into 10% of the health professional schools with a curriculum on intellectual disabilities.”

Bazzano said health screenings for the athletes will also be prioritized, as well as telehealth services and reaching the younger population -- to provide early intervention much sooner. She said the COVID-19 pandemic only magnified the health disparities that people with intellectual disabilities encounter daily.

People with intellectual disabilities die, on average, 16-20 years sooner than the general population and Bazzano said the pandemic exacerbated that.

“We have seen that many times our athletes haven't gotten access, and certainly haven't been prioritized for even the vaccine, or ventilators and equipment,” Bazzano said. “This gift will also go to spreading the word about proper education, using masks and hand sanitizing, and getting the vaccine.”