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Special Olympics athlete Yao Armand and the national Unified Football Team from Côte d’Ivoire had a successful campaign in South Africa in October by finishing third with a bronze medal and qualifying for a worldwide football competition to be held next year in Brazil. But that was just one of the highlights Yao will always remember from his trip to South Africa. He also received a prescription for new glasses through the Special Olympics Opening Eyes program, something that volunteer eyes doctors expect will dramatically improve his eyesight, his future performances on the field, and virtually every other aspect of his life.

Fast forward to May 15 – that is when Mr Jean-Louis Iba, President of Lions Club in Abengourou, Cote d’Ivoire presented a new pair of eye glasses to Yao. Since lenses were not able to be produced at the event in South Africa and Yao’s remote location provided a challenge to reaching him, it took several months to get Yao his new free eyeglasses, but it was well worth the wait. Yao and his uncle, Mr. Raphael NGuessan, travelled from his home village for a Special Olympics Unity Football Match on the playground of the Chateau Primary School of Abengourou and received his new eyewear.

A smiling Yao expressed his joy and gratitude to the representatives of the Lions Club for the gift of better sight. His uncle also spoke, thanking Special Olympics for the transformation he has seen in his nephew since joining Special Olympics, saying he feels his nephew is in “full bloom.”

The occasion also sparked a stronger relationship between Lions Clubs in the country and Special Olympics. Mr. Iba said he did not know about Special Olympics previously but now that he has seen first-hand the impact it can have on athletes’ lives, he is committed to providing his support at the local level.

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