Become a Health Messenger

A Health Messenger is a Special Olympics athlete who has been trained to serve as a leader in health and/or fitness within their Special Olympics community or the community at large.


In order to create more effective public health programs, improve health systems and have community engagement supporting the health of people with intellectual disabilities (ID), people with ID must have leadership roles. The Health Messenger program is empowering athletes to: develop healthy lifestyles; influence other athletes to lead healthier lives; advocate within their communities for inclusion around health and wellness services, education and resources; and develop leaders to advocate for the health needs of people with ID.

  • Empowerment: Health Messengers are trained and confident in their ability to act as peer leaders and role models within their Special Olympics communities for fitness and preventative health programs.
  • Community Impact: Health Messengers lead activation within their broader communities and with their peers to raise awareness and influence other community members to be more inclusive of people with ID.
  • Leadership and Advocacy: Health Messengers catalyze and support external organizations to work toward making their services, programming, or policies more inclusive.


Leaders have different gifts, talents, experiences and passions. Within the Health Messenger program, athletes who are trained will assess how they want to serve as a leader. They may feel suited to serve in one leadership capacity or multiple. The typical leadership roles Health Messengers take on include:

  • Spokesperson
    • Athletes who serve as a spokesperson can speak on behalf of people with ID about the health and wellness needs and barriers faced. They attend meetings with health and fitness partners and influencers to speak and advocate on behalf of people with ID.
  • Healthy Athletes Coordinator
    • Within Healthy Athletes events, Health Messengers can lead and be available throughout Healthy Athletes screenings to guide athletes through the screenings, recruit athletes to come to the screenings, serve as a peer educator at health education stations and assist with logistics of the screening.
  • Healthy Habits Leader
    • Healthy Habits are health education stations at events led by Health Messengers. The Health Messengers can design and implement the event and/or stations.
  • Health & Fitness Leader
    • A Health and Fitness leader is an athlete committed to promoting healthier lifestyles for athletes, unified partners, coaches and families through:
      • The creation of ongoing health and fitness education or activities either as part of a Special Olympics team or in parallel. Examples include: leading a fitness club, leading fitness activities as part of practices, teaching other athletes how to set personal health goals and helping them to achieve them; leading other health education sessions for SO athletes

Each Health Messenger will complete a practicum when they return from training to put what they learned in action. They will be leading the way at SOCO to ensure Special Olympics athletes are healthy and influencing the community, partners, and government to achieve inclusive health.

Colorado’s Health Messengers:

Alexa Barricklow

Alexa is involved in many sports through Special Olympics including volleyball, softball, figure skating, and track & field. Her favorite hobbies are spending time with friends and family and traveling. Alexa became a Health Messenger in Spring 2018. Her interest in this role stemmed from her athleticism and her current experience in school studying to be a physical education teacher.

Hanna Atkinson                                             

Hanna Atkinson, lives in Littleton Colorado. She has been an avid public speaker and gave the commencement speech at her high school graduation. She became a Denver 7 contributor in 2015 and was awarded the Heartland Broadcast Emmy in 2017 for her segment “More Alike Than Different.” Hanna was selected to be a Special Olympic International Health Messenger in 2017 to educate fellow athletes on becoming their best in sports and in life. She is creating a business to inspire joy, acceptance, and empowerment in memory of her brother, and she volunteers for many community nonprofits. In Hanna’s free time she likes to ski, cycle, works out, plays chess, and listens to classical music.

Vincent Egan

Vincent Egan, from Colorado Springs has been competing as a Special Olympic athlete for 14 years.  He was recently selected as a Global Health Messenger with the mission of sharing health and wellness with his fellow athletes.  Over the years, he has competed in year-round sports, playing 9 sports in all; clearly defining his favorites as, flag football, soccer and golf!  In 2017, he won a gold medal in downhill skiing at the Winter World Games in Schladming, Austria.  In 2018, he golfed in the Quicken Loans National, Perfect Sense Pro Am in Washington DC and has played on the Unified Rapids Soccer Team for three years. In addition to Vincent’s dedication to sports, training and competition, he became a leader both on and off the field.  A founding member of the State and Regional Youth Activation Committees, he is trained as a Global Messenger, attended the 2010 National Games in Nebraska, the 2015 World Games in Los Angeles, represented Colorado at Capitol Hill Day in Washington DC, served on the Special Olympics Colorado Board of Directors, became an Athlete Coach and Fitness Captain, and has recently completed Athlete Ambassador training. As a Global Health Messenger, Vincent plans to educate, train and advocate for his fellow athletes and will work hard to accomplish this mission.

Interested in applying to become a Health Messenger? Contact Leah Combs, Health & Wellness Manager.

For additional Athlete Leadership Opportunities click here.