Tom Golisano Gifts $30 Million to Special Olympics to Expand Critical Health Services Globally for People with Intellectual Disabilities

New gift comes at a critical time for global community

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE : September 16, 2021

TEXAS, 16 September 2021 – Special Olympics International announced today that it has received its largest single private gift in the organization's 53-year history. Tom Golisano, Paychex founder, philanthropist and father of a son with an intellectual disability (ID), will provide $30 million, his third major gift to Special Olympics. This funding will expand the Special Olympics Healthy Communities program.  Healthy Communities provides health services globally for people with ID, a population that has been critically underserved, especially during the pandemic. 

“This new gift comes at a critical time for our global community as we have seen during this pandemic just how little this population has been prioritized,” said Dr. Alicia Bazzano, Special Olympics Chief Health Officer.  

People with intellectual disabilities die on average 16-20 years sooner than the general population. More often than not, these deaths are preventable and result from treatable conditions, like constipation, seizures and heart disease. During the pandemic many people with intellectual disabilities have not had access to critical COVID-19 care and resources like ventilators and vaccines. 

"Since 2019, Special Olympics Texas has conducted 1,680 health screenings in 8 health disciplines; Fit Feet, FUNfitness, Healthy Hearing, Opening Eyes, MedFest, Special Smiles, and Strong Minds. In addition, 202 medical students and health care providers were trained in providing quality and accessible care to their patients with intellectual disabilities throughout the country” said Samantha Devine, Statewide Health Programs Manager. She added, The support from Mr. Golisano will enable us to continue to offer important health programs to over 58,000 athletes and ensure we continue to prioritize and emphasize the health needs of individuals with intellectual disabilities.

Over the past five years, in partnership with the Golisano Foundation, Special Olympics’ Healthy Communities has conducted 700,000 athlete health screenings – double the number in the previous five years – and offered follow-up care in the communities that decreased urgent referral needs by half. Healthy Communities added 150,000 athletes to fitness and health programs, decreasing their blood pressure, improving health outcomes and potentially adding years to their lives. More than 150,000 health care providers were trained in 60 countries, and 130 health professional schools now have inclusive health curricula to train students on ID. Special Olympics has also partnered with many organizations, including foundations, governments, universities, and philanthropists to contribute to Healthy Communities programming.

Over the next five years, Special Olympics will move the world closer to inclusion in health care for people with intellectual disabilities through multiple key strategic actions including:
  • Reaching three million in-person and virtual health screenings in over 100 countries and ensuring follow-up care is received.
  • Improving the overall health and fitness of 600,000 athletes.  
  • Reaching 650,000 young children with intellectual disabilities and their families – to provide them with early intervention services to enable them to walk, run, skip and play earlier.
  • Creating the Golisano Virtual University to provide training to 100,000 more health care professionals, enabling them to treat people with intellectual disabilities. 
  • Creating the first-ever Global Report on the Health of People with Intellectual Disabilities – this report will evaluate disparities across health systems to develop inclusive policies and practices in target countries.
As the leading advocate for health of those with intellectual disabilities, Special Olympics is opening access to life-changing health care for this population. Since 2012, Tom Golisano and his foundation have prioritized the health needs of people with ID, donating previous gifts totaling $37 million to help achieve health equity for people with ID all over the world, beginning with the launch of Special Olympics Healthy Communities.
“I am pleased to continue financial support for Special Olympics’ extraordinary health work, which is giving people with intellectual and developmental disabilities improved access to health services and the opportunity to live happier, more productive lives,” said Tom Golisano.

“Tom and Foundation Executive Director Ann Costello have been visionaries in reducing health disparities and improving the quality of life for people with different abilities,” said Dr. Timothy Shriver, Chairman, Special Olympics. “They have been consistent and outspoken in their commitment to the physical and social-emotional health of those with intellectual disabilities. We thank them for their leadership, partnership and passion for making health care more equitable for our population.”

Special Olympics Health, made possible by the Golisano Foundation, and in the United States in collaboration with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is creating a world where people with intellectual disabilities have every opportunity to be healthy and can take full
advantage of the same health programs and services available to people without intellectual disabilities. The organization is investing in a life-span approach, serving as health partners for every person with an intellectual disability throughout their life.

About Tom Golisano and the Golisano Foundation

Tom Golisano — entrepreneur, philanthropist, and civic leader — is the founder and chairman of the board of Paychex, Inc., a leading national provider of payroll, human resource, and benefit outsourcing solutions with more than 14,000 employees and 100 office locations nationwide serving more than a half-million small and medium-sized businesses. Tom’s vision, perseverance, and action have left an indelible mark on a broad spectrum of issues that touch our lives – in business, healthcare, education, voter policies, politics, and tax reform. His personal philanthropic contributions to hospitals, educational institutions, and other organizations exceed $330 million. A fierce advocate for dignity and inclusion, Tom Golisano applied his pioneering spirit to establish the Golisano Foundation to help make the world a better place for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Founded in 1985, the Golisano Foundation is now one of the largest private foundations in the United States devoted exclusively to supporting programs for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. With $45 million in gross assets, it awards more than $2 million in grants annually “Imagining the Possibilities,” advocating for families, fighting for their dignity, and giving people with IDD the opportunity to thrive in their communities.


About Special Olympics Texas
Special Olympics Texas (SOTX) is a privately funded non-profit organization that changes lives through the power of sport by encouraging and empowering people with intellectual disabilities, promoting acceptance for all, and fostering communities of understanding and respect.  SOTX provides continuing opportunities for more than 58,800 children and adults with intellectual disabilities throughout the Lone Star State to realize their potential, develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage and experience joy and friendship.  To learn more, visit or call 800.876.5646.  Engage with us on: Twitter @SOTexas;;