ST. BONAVENTURE, NY — A New York State Elks Association Major Projects grant will help a student club at St. Bonaventure University promote a healthy lifestyles program at its annual spring Unified Basketball Competition serving Special Olympics athletes.
Jamie Peace, manager of mail services at St. Bonaventure and CEO of the Elks’ Major Projects Grant Program, presented a $3,000 grant to Dr. Paula Scraba, associate professor of physical education at St. Bonaventure and adviser of the student-run Physical Activity Club, and Dr. Claire Watson, founding director of the public health program in St. Bonaventure’s School of Health Professions, and clinical director for Special Olympics New York and International.
The Physical Activity Club, for majors in health science, sport studies, physical education and related fields, is a recognized Special Olympics college club.
“Part of our mission is to enhance student opportunities for professional experiences and community involvement, on and off campus, that promote healthy lifestyles for people with and without disabilities, through Special Olympics’ Unified Sports program,” Scraba said.
A new initiative for the club is the Special Olympics Unified Healthy Athletes Program, which is aimed at providing health services and education to Special Olympics athletes.
The poverty rates in Cattaraugus and Allegany counties are among the state’s highest, and residents in those counties share correspondingly high rates of obesity, diabetes and heart disease, said Scraba. To help combat those trends the Physical Activity Club will conduct a Health Promotion Awareness Program at its annual Unified Basketball Competition next spring. The annual basketball event, involving students from six local school districts, partners people with and without intellectual disabilities on the same teams.
St. Bonaventure students will conduct the Health Promotion Awareness Program, which will include screenings to determine individuals’ body mass index and other key health factors, interactive activities aimed at raising awareness of the need to improve and maintain one’s fitness and wellness, interviews with athletes to assess their health-related habits, and even a sample healthy meal.
The program is designed to be fun, interactive, positive and engaging, and to demonstrate to Special Olympics athletes how small changes in behavior can help improve and maintain good health and sports performance, Watson said.
“The goal is to improve the quality of life and long-term health of Special Olympics athletes and people with intellectual disabilities through healthy behaviors, screenings and medical referrals,” she said.
The New York State Elks Association Major Projects grants, awarded across the state each year, are for programs that assist people with disabilities. “We try to help programs, like St. Bonaventure’s Unified Basketball competition, that impact a large group of people,” Peace said . “We’re glad that we can help make a difference.”
This is the second time in three years that the Bonaventure program has received an Elks Major Projects grant.
“We are so grateful to the Elks. With their support we are able to provide healthy lifestyles programs and services to local schools and communities,” Scraba said.