November is Diabetes Awareness Month

During the month of November, Special Olympics Pennsylvania (SOPA) is recognizing Diabetes Awareness Month by helping athletes learn about and prevent diabetes melitus (DM). DM is one of the most common diseases among Americans and affects those with intellectual disability at a much greater rate. Those with intellectual disabilities tend to receive fewer diabetes exams and less diabetes care than those without disabilities. By making healthy choices and making sure you see your doctor routinely you can help prevent your risk for Diabetes.

What is Diabetes Melitus? 

DM is a long-lasting health condition that is related to high levels of blood sugar. This condition relates to a hormone released from your pancreas called insulin, which helps us manage our blood sugar levels. For a person with diabetes, their body does not make enough insulin or cannot use it as well as it should. This can lead to a buildup of sugar in the bloodstream which can result in serious health problems like heart disease, vision loss, and kidney disease. 

There are different types of diabetes:

  • Prediabetes: Slightly high blood glucose levels in addition to heart health changes taking place
  • Type 1 Diabetes: A small or no production of insulin by the pancreas. This type of Diabetes is genetic and is not reversible.  
  • Type 2 Diabetes: Not enough production of insulin by the pancreas and the body is not able to use insulin properly. This type of Diabetes can be reversible with healthy lifestyle changes and weight loss.

To help prevent your risk for developing Type 2 Diabetes or to help reverse a diagnosis of prediabetes or Type 2 Diabetes it is important to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Follow these tips below for more details.

Four lifestyle/nutritional tips for preventing Type 2 DM: 

  1. Participate in physical activity: 

Exercise can prevent type 2 DM by helping with weight loss, lowering blood sugar, and increasing your body’s ability to use insulin. Finding the sports and activities you enjoy can help you stay motivated. A goal of 150 minutes of physical activity per week can decrease your risk for Diabetes. 

  • Consume more foods high in fiber: 

Eating enough fiber is shown to provide many benefits like improved bowel movement, weight loss, and lower cholesterol levels! Fiber is also important for those with diabetes because it helps manage blood glucose levels. 

High fiber foods

  • Fruits and vegetables 
  • Whole-grain foods like bread, brown rice, cereals etc.
  • Beans and legumes 
  • Oats 
  • Low fat Popcorn
  • Drink water and sugar free drinks

Sugary drinks and beverages can add to your daily sugar intake and total calories. Extra sugar that you eat can be stored as fat over time. Drinking soft drinks, fruit juice, sports drinks, and other sugary drinks regularly over time can lead to weight gain, which can lead to a higher risk of diabetes.

  • Eat Fruits and Vegetables, 3-5 servings a day

Fruits and vegetables are low in calories and high in fiber. They can be a filling way to add many vitamins and minerals to your diet and keep you feeling full and satisfied. Filling your plate with fruits and vegetables instead of extra carbohydrates and added fats can lower your risk of diabetes. Eating fruits and vegetables for snacks is a healthier choice than many high fat and high sugary snacks too!

If you or someone you know is diagnosed with Diabetes or Prediabetes it is important to talk with your healthcare provider to help manage your blood sugar and prevent any future problems related to diabetes. If you need help finding a provider in your area, Special Olympics Pennsylvania can help. Check out our Provider Director for Diabetes Self-Management and Education locations in your area.

Fall Fest Stories: Tamba Mbriwa

In a 7v7 gold medal soccer match at last weekend’s Fall Festival at Villanova University, Berks County and Delaware County were locked in an instant classic. Berks County struck first before Delaware leveled the score at 1-1 on a goal by Eric Augustine. After DelCo took the lead in the second half thanks to Webster Quiah, Berks scored the late equalizer to send the game into extra time.

In the second extra period, in a match that seemed destined for penalty kicks, Tamba Mbriwa made an inspired run through the attacking end. Mbriwa – a first-year player for DelCo after moving from Montgomery County – weaved into the box and chipped a shot that was destined for the goal, but a Berks player threw his hands up to deflect the ball. The referee immediately awarded the Wildcats a penalty kick. With a gold medal on the line, the crowd chanting his name, Mbriwa calmly stepped to the spot, took a deep breath and delivered the kick of his life. Final: 3-2 Wildcats. Gold medal secured.

Hear from Tamba about the match of the weekend, in his own words:

“Honestly, it was a rough game. It was rainy, it was cloudy, but we all came out, we all fought as a team and we came out with the win. I’m blessed to have my family, my teammates. Without my coaches, we wouldn’t be here today. …

Going through my head, honestly, I was like ‘I know what’s happening. I know what happened.’ I fell down and I got up and the referee said, ‘penalty kick.’ And I’m just thinking to myself, ‘wow!’ My coach said ‘take it,’ so I took it and I shot it in. My mind was energized and I was tired. I was a little bit [nervous], but I got it done. My teammates were all behind me 100 percent and I got it done for them and my coaches. …

The training was tough. We come to practice every day, we worked hard on goalie skills, training skills, everything. Our coach, he works our butts off every practice. We came out today and we had fans watching us. Honestly, I’m blessed. It’s a great season and we can’t wait until next year. …

My favorite memory is I get to hang out with the college students and I get to meet new people. And these people around me are pretty cool.”

2022 PHLY Insurance Valor Award Winner: Logan Wismer

Each year during Fall Festival, the Philadelphia Insurance Companies Valor Award is given to an athlete whose effort, determination and sportsmanship embodies the power of the human spirit to overcome challenges and inspire greatness.

We are proud and honored to announce that LOGAN WISMER from Team Northampton is our 2022 Valor Award Winner!

When Logan first entered a powerlifting gym, he could barley stand still, let alone walk. Through a rigorous conditioning routine focused on strength and endurance, Logan was able to make exceptional strides in his posture and balance. Two long years later, Logan competed in a USAPL event for the first time and won gold in the deadlift!

Logan continued to collect hardware, including another gold in deadlift at Special Olympics Pennsylvania’s Eastern Fall Sectional, before adding bench press and squats to his repertoire at the Pennsylvania State Coaches Powerlifting Association State Championships, helping his team to a third-place finish!

In addition to his incredible progress and determination in the gym, Logan is also the consummate teammate. There’s never a practice or event that goes by without Logan encouraging his fellow lifters with high fives and fist bumps. He truly embodies everything it means to be a Special Olympics athletes.


Athlete Spotlight: Damian Smith

Meet Damian Smith.

Damian is an athlete from Bradford/Sullivan County and an experienced Long-Distance Runner. Recently, he competed at Special Olympics Pennsylvania’s Eastern Fall Sectional and won gold in the 5k and silver in the 1500m. And, as a Global Messenger, he also gave an impassioned speech at Opening Ceremonies. Hear more about his experience in his own words:

“I was introduced to Special Olympics in seventh grade. This year will be seven years I’ve been doing it. I started running at Sullivan County High School and pretty much kept it up from there. It was difficult at times because of some of the other schools we ran against. Sometimes we’d come out on top, but sometimes we’d get third or last. …

One of the things that I’m most proud of from being in Special Olympics are the 5k runs I do every year. Because I run long distance, I practice a lot for the long-distance runs. I’ve been wanting to train for a 10k because of one my teammates that I train with is doing a 10k at Villanova this year. I’m going to train a lot during the winter for it so that November of next year, I can try doing the 10k. Just to put myself out there. Get noticed more. …

This Global Messenger class that I’m taking, I’m actually really liking it. I get to meet new people and make new friends. I learned about impromptu speaking, meaning, if someone comes up to you and asks you about a topic and you’re not really prepared as to what to say, you can just talk about things related to that topic. That was kind of hard for me, because I didn’t really know what to talk about. …

I work at a factory making things with leather. I’ve been there about four years. It’s not something I plan on retiring from, but I like my job. I want to work with kids. Being like a Teacher’s Aide. I’d like to eventually be able to do that and also I thought about working for schools, too. I just plan on sticking around until an opportunity like that comes around. …

I used to always have trouble putting myself out there, trying to make new friends, because I was always quiet and shy. I didn’t talk much. But after putting myself out there and meeting new people, I’m kind of used to being around large crowds of people. I just enjoy doing Special Olympics and I don’t think I plan on quitting.”

SOPA President & CEO Matt Aaron named a 2022 Philadelphia Titan 100

Titan CEO and headline sponsor Wipfli LLP are pleased to announce Matthew B. Aaron, President and CEO of Special Olympics Pennsylvania (SOPA), as a 2022 Philadelphia Titan 100. The Titan 100 program recognizes Philadelphia’s Top 100 CEO’s & C-level executives. They are the area’s most accomplished business leaders in their industry using criteria that includes demonstrating exceptional leadership, vision, and passion.  Collectively the 2022 Philadelphia Titan 100 and their companies employ upwards of 70,000 individuals and generate over $14 billion dollars in annual revenues. This year’s honorees will be published in a limited-edition Titan 100 book and profiled exclusively online. They will be honored at an awards ceremony on September 8th, 2022 and will be given the opportunity to interact and connect multiple times throughout the year with their fellow Titans.

“The Titan 100 are shaping the future of the Philadelphia’s business community by building a distinguished reputation that is unrivaled and preeminent in their field. We proudly recognize the Titan 100 for their successes and contributions. We know that they will have a profound impact that makes an extraordinary difference for their customers and clients across the nation.” says Jaime Zawmon, President of Titan CEO.

As SOPA’s President and CEO, Matt Aaron is responsible for leading a statewide organization providing year-round training and competition in 21 Olympic-type sports for nearly 13,000 children and adults with intellectual disabilities.  SOPA offers more than 500 competition opportunities each year via an amazing network of local programs with more than 6,000 volunteer coaches.  For more than 50 years, SOPA has used the power of sports to transform the lives of people with intellectual disabilities.  But, SOPA is much more than a sports organization. Through its Athlete Leadership programs, athletes receive training and assume meaningful leadership roles where they influence change within the Special Olympics movement and their communities.  SOPA also addresses major disparities in healthcare via its Healthy Athletes program that offers athletes free health screenings in six different disciplines. And, through Unified Sports, SOPA brings together individuals with and without intellectual disabilities as equal teammates which promotes respect and inclusion.  SOPA now has Unified Champion Schools programs in more than 250 schools around the state.

“I am incredibly honored and humbled to be named a 2022 Philadelphia Titan 100,” says Matt Aaron.  “I look forward to being recognized along with my fellow honorees and using this opportunity to raise awareness about the life-transforming work of Special Olympics.”

Matt will be honored at the Titan 100 awards on September 8th, 2022 at The Drexelbrook located in Drexel Hill, PA. From hosting American Bandstand with Dick Clark to surviving a 1978 fire, the Drexelbrook has changed and evolved for more than 70 years to best suit the community as a private club, hotel, and event center.  This unique cocktail-style awards event will gather 100 Titans of Industry and their guests for an evening unlike anything that exists in the Philadelphia business community.

“On behalf of the partners and associates at Wipfli we congratulate all the Titan100 winners. It’s an honor to recognize this diverse group of leaders in the Philadelphia community. We appreciate the lasting impact each leader has made, and continues to make, in building organizations of significance that in many cases have not only local but national and international reach. Your ingenuity and creativity have set you apart, and the honor of being seen as an industry Titan is richly deserved,” says W. Bradley Baturka, Mid Atlantic Leader and Partner at Wipfli.