(Press Release) PADUA, ITALY – Italian eyewear maker Safilo Group announced a new three-year commitment to Special Olympics, the global nonprofit organization dedicated to year-round sports training and competition for people with intellectual disabilities.

Safilo announced the commitment at its Extended Global Leadership Team meeting on Feb. 2 when 150 of Safilo’s global leaders gathered at Safilo’s headquarters in Padua, Italy. The partnership between Safilo and Special Olympics dates back to 2003 and, during the last 12 years, has led to more than 1 million optical frames and sunglasses provided to Special Olympics athletes all over the world. As part of the Special Olympics global health platform made possible through the support of the Golisano Foundation and various stakeholders, the Special Olympics-Lions Clubs International Opening Eyes program provides Special Olympics athletes in more than 80 countries with vision examinations, prescription eyewear and valuable referrals for follow-up care.

“It is Safilo’s honour to continue our longstanding partnership with Special Olympics. Serving society is at the heart of our industry. Eyewear exists to care for eyesight, nurture beauty and enable vision,” says Luisa Delgado, CEO of Safilo Group. “With Special Olympics, we serve athletes and specific broader groups with projects across the world to bring their extraordinary visions to life. We are proud to contribute with our glasses, donating frames designed with craftsmanship and quality for comfort and fit.”

“Special Olympics has found that one out of every five athletes competing at Games has never had an eye examination, and more than one in three athletes need a new eyewear prescription,” says Mary Davis, acting CEO of Special Olympics. “Partners such as Safilo are crucial to the success of our Opening Eyes program because together we work to break down the barriers that people with intellectual disabilities experience when seeking quality health care and access to health services. We are extremely grateful for Safilo’s continued commitment to Special Olympics, and we look forward to three more years of this important partnership which benefits athletes in such a significant way.”

Since the beginning of the partnership, Safilo’s involvement with Special Olympics has been as global supplier of the Opening Eyes vision care program. Opening Eyes, part of Special Olympics’ Healthy Athletes public health initiative, is among the largest programs in the world dedicated to providing vision care for people with intellectual disabilities. A large number of athletes have the chance to benefit from the vision screenings and, above all, receive prescription eyeglasses to correct their vision impairments and sunglasses to protect their eyes. The Opening Eyes program also provides sports protective eyewear for athletes that train and compete in contact sports.

The eye health and vision care program called “Opening Eyes” was founded by Dr. Paul Berman of the American Optometric Association’s Sports Vision Section and formally incorporated into the Special Olympics Healthy Athletes program in 1997. A generous grant from the Lions Clubs International Foundation, the largest service club in the world, formalized a global partnership and enabled the Opening Eyes program to expand internationally. Opening Eyes is able to provide prescription eyeglasses to athletes in need in collaboration with Essilor International, who provides the polycarbonate lenses necessary for the fabrication of eyewear.

Safilo renews its support of Special Olympics with the donation of more than 160,000 spectacles and sunglasses per year up to 2018 for the athletes of Special Olympics. In addition, Safilo personnel will continue to take an active part in the implementation of the events as volunteers, donating their time and expertise for the benefit of Special Olympics athletes and those with intellectual disabilities.

Founded in 1968 by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, Special Olympics now serves more than 4.5 million athletes with intellectual disabilities in sports training, competition and related services worldwide. Through its support to Special Olympics, Safilo aims to improve the integration and welfare of those athletes.

Over the past 19 years, Special Olympics has grown to become the largest global public health organization specifically focused on people with intellectual disabilities. The organization aims to ensure inclusive health for people with intellectual disabilities by working with corporations, universities, hospitals and other organizations.

Since 1997, the Special Olympics Healthy Athletes program has been providing free examinations and education for people with intellectual disabilities across the areas of audiology, dentistry, health promotion, optometry, physical exams, physical therapy and podiatry. The award-winning Healthy Athletes program and the 135,000-plus healthcare professionals trained on the specific healthcare concerns of people with intellectual disabilities have provided more than 1.6 million free examinations to Special Olympics athletes worldwide in more than 130 countries.

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