USJ Volunteers with The Special Olympics Connecticut Winter Games

On Feb. 23 and 24, the University of Saint Joseph’s (USJ) Athlete Nutrition Advising Program participated in the Special Olympics Connecticut (SOCT). According to their website, the SOCT is a “program that brings athletes with and without intellectual disabilities together to play sports, gain physical fitness and develop friendships.” When Melissa Brown, Ph.D., R.D. LD, CSSD, assistant professor of Nutrition and Public Health/director of the USJ Athlete Nutrition Advising Program, was asked to participate in the SOCT’s Healthy Athletes Program, she knew her students would be eager to assist.

“When I was first contacted about helping with the Winter Games, I was immediately interested. This is a group of special athletes that need the same performance nutrition education that we provide to any other athlete but unfortunately it is often an underserved population,” remarked Dr. Brown.

Along with the Winter Games, the SOCT organizes Summer and Holiday Games as well. To collaborate with other organizations, the SOCT has a program called the “Healthy Athletes Program,” which seeks nutrition experts to develop, organize, and facilitate performance stations. USJ’s Athlete Nutrition Advising Program station offered health and nutrition tips for attendees.

“Working at the Special Olympics Connecticut nutrition table was an exceptional experience as a nutrition student and further enhanced my exposure to a real-world nutrition setting,” said Sports Nutrition Graduate Assistant Kaneen Gomez-Hixson M’19. “I was able to practice and strengthen my professional skills while reinforcing my passion for the nutrition and dietetics field.”

In addition, Dietetic Intern Kara Peters M’19, and Graduate Assistant Stephanie Vivier M’19 assisted as well. Not only did they provide health tips, but they supplied fuel to the athletes while they were participating in floor hockey events with NCAA Division I Hockey players from the American International College Springfield.

“SOCT does a wonderful job of streamlining the competitions and always put on a well-organized day of great athletic competition.  We will provide whatever help they need and hope to expand our efforts with this wonderful organization in the future.  We had a fantastic time working with these athletes and are looking forward to facilitating the nutrition stations for the Summer Games in June,” said Dr. Brown.

Learn more about USJ’s Nutrition Program here.