Meet Health Messenger, Thad Powell

Thad Powell has been involved in Special Olympics for half his life, starting at age 17. Thad loves sports. 

“I have competed in skiing, bowling, basketball, swimming, javelin and turbojav, and cycling.  My favorite sport is skiing because I love the outdoors.  One of my favorite memories was when I was skiing at Big Sky with two volunteers who took me to the ski patrol hut at the top of the mountain.”

Since 2020, Thad has also served as a Health Messenger. This is the an athlete who is trained to serve as health and wellness leaders, educators, advocates and role models within their Special Olympics communities, as well as the community at large.

“For my practicum, my mom and I made healthy lunches for my team, and we led warm-up exercises before starting practice.  Right now, I am focusing on getting in good shape by running on a treadmill, swimming at YMCA, and doing sit-ups.” 

Thad will use his Health Messenger skills in mid February when he visits Washington DC as part of delegation for Special Olympics. Known as #SOHILLDAY, Thad and others will speak to Representatives and Senators about the importance of Inclusive Health and Unified Champion Schools. Thad will focus specifically on health inequalities for people with intellectual disabilities. 

Did you know that people with intellectual disabilities die 16-20 years earlier than their peers without intellectual disabilities?  This is because of undiagnosed and untreated conditions.  This is something we need to change.

On a team of 10 Special Olympic athletes, seven will be overweight or obese and be at risk for chronic health conditions. Seven will have problems with flexibility, strength, and balance. Six will have high blood pressure. Five will need a new eyeglass prescription. Three will fail a hearing test. Three will have untreated tooth decay.

This is why the health screenings done at Special Olympics Sporting events are so important. Special Olympics Montana recently did a hearing screening, a podiatry screening, and a dental screening at our its State Basketball Tournament.  Funding for our health programming supports athletes ages 2-72!

This trip is filled with firsts for Thad. It is his first trip to Washington DC, the first time he has traveled without a family member, and the first time to meet members of Congress in person.

“I’m looking forward to going to the Capitol and hopefully will be able to go to the police station and meet some police officers. I think that going to a hockey game would be very exciting, if that is possible.  The one thing I would like to share with everyone on this trip is that Special Olympics is fun.”