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story.lead_photo.caption The tornado damaged Special Olympics Missouri Training for Life campus sits Wednesday at 305 Special Olympics Drive. Photo by Mark Wilson / News Tribune.

Special Olympics Missouri recently received a designation as an official "Healthy Community" from Special Olympics International. SOMO is now one of 19 organizations internationally recognized with the distinction.

"Special Olympics Missouri is committed to ensuring those with intellectual disabilities have the opportunity to thrive in every area of their life," said Megan Davis, SOMO health and wellness manager, in a news release. "We look forward to continuing to develop and grow our programs and community partnerships to ensure we are doing our part to create overall inclusive healthy communities for all."

In the organization's first year as a Healthy Community, SOMO has developed new programs, increased the number of free health screenings it provides, and incorporated overall health and wellness into every area of Special Olympics, Davis said.

The Healthy Community grant is comprised of a three-year grant cycle in which SOMO will receive $50,000 annually for three years by striving to meet six criteria presented by SOI. SOMO met all six criteria in year one.

Criterion five states that 20 percent of athletes in the geographical focus area have to be enrolled in ongoing six- to eight-week health and wellness programs. Unlike other states, SOMO's geographical area is the entire state because of the Training for Life campus in Jefferson City. Most programs are made up of smaller urban or rural focus areas.

SOMO had to have a minimum of 978 athletes in ongoing heath and wellness programs during year one. In 2018, SOMO had 1,005 athletes enrolled in ongoing programs.

The organization also had to provide at least three healthy athletes screening disciplines per year with a minimum of 150 screenings within the geographical area. In 2018, SOMO met this criteria with 1,457 screenings provided.

SOI indicated most programs do not fully meet all criteria until year two or three.

"To know that more individuals with intellectual disabilities throughout Missouri are living healthier lives because they have access to health and wellness opportunities provided by Special Olympics is one of our organization's greatest accomplishments," SOMO Partnership Director Mary Niswonger said.

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