From his first philanthropic efforts 35 years ago, the model initiatives Tom Golisano has helped to create, have paved the way for better health care and the inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities, leading to improved quality of life.


Intellectual Disabilities

Helping people with developmental and intellectual disabilities is a mission close to Tom Golisano’s heart. From developed countries to the developing world, people with intellectual disabilities are often neglected, forgotten and denied basic rights and protections. Global health reports indicate health disparities facing this population are enormous. Even well intended efforts fall short of reaching this population.

Through the Golisano Foundation and through partnerships with organizations such as Special Olympics and others, life-changing and much needed services are being provided to help people with intellectual disabilities find pathways to self-sufficiency, personal dignity, and the best possible expression of their abilities and talents throughout their lifetimes.

Golisano Foundation

The Golisano Foundation is Tom Golisano’s largest ongoing initiative to help people with intellectual disabilities. The Foundation was founded in 1985 with an initial gift of $90,000 from Tom Golisano. Now 31 years later, it has become one of the largest private foundations in the United States devoted exclusively to supporting programs for people with intellectual disabilities. The Foundation has more than $40 million in gross assets and has awarded more than $25 million in grants, about $2 million annually, to non-profit organizations in Western and Rochester, NY region as and Southwest Florida that serve people with developmental disabilities.


Golisano Center for Special Needs at Upstate Golisano Children's Hospital

On April 17, 2021,  Upstate Golisano Children's Hospital in Syracuse, New York opened the Golisano Center for Special Needs, designed to streamline autism care for children in the region. The center provides comprehensive, coordinated and scientifically-based medical and behavioral care for children and adolescents with many types of intellectual and developmental disabilities.  Tom Golisano donated $3 million for the center and the Upstate Foundation continues to raise funds to support and expand its services. Read more

On September 27, 2019 in Syracuse, New York, The Upstate Foundation announced a gift of $3 million from Tom Golisano to establish the Golisano Center for Special Needs at Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital. The center will provide comprehensive, coordinated and scientifically based medical and behavioral care for children and adolescents with all types of intellectual and developmental disabilities. The center will act as the umbrella, creating a framework to increase collaboration resulting in better patient care. The announcement was made by Golisano Foundation Executive Director Ann Costello at the hospital's 10th birthday celebration. Read more

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Golisano Autism Center

The new Golisano Autism Center Rochester, expands and enhances autism services to serve the more than 10,000 people diagnosed with autism in the Greater Rochester and surrounding areas. The new Center is named for Tom Golisano, who announced on May 16, 2017 that he was making a matching challenge grant of $2.5 million to help build the Center. The establishment of the Golisano Autism Center Rochester will transform the delivery of autism services by co-locating and coordinating resources offered by multiple autism providers, each of which, has specialized areas of expertise. 

Special Olympics Health

Tom Golisano has provided more than $37 million to Special Olympics create a world where people with intellectual disabilities have the same opportunities and access to health care as people without intellectual disabilities. As the world’s largest public health organization for people with intellectual disabilities, Special Olympics is uniquely poised to address and improve the unmet health needs of people with intellectual disabilities. It is working to create a tipping point where health becomes inclusive for people with intellectual disabilities globally by changing curriculum, training health care professionals and policymakers, influencing policy, advocating for inclusive health programming, building partnerships for follow up care and harnessing the power of the Special Olympics Movement to build awareness.

In 2015, Tom’s gifts to Special Olympics Health were recognized as one of Philanthropy’s Big Bets for Social Change, a goal estimated by the Bridgespan Group that only 20% of philanthropic donations seek to achieve.

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Golisano Center for Community Health at Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center

The Golisano Center for Community Health is the only outpatient center of its type in Western New York and one of very few in the United States. Dedicated in June 2016, the $7 million, two-story, 23,000-square-foot building was supported by a $3.5 million gift from Tom Golisano. The Center provides comprehensive integrated health care services to adults with special needs and their families, breaking down barriers to care and supporting the Tom Golisano and the Foundation’s vision of inclusive healthcare for all -- ensuring that people with intellectual or developmental disabilities are in no way excluded from healthcare systems within their communities


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Golisano Pediatric Behavioral Health & Wellness Center

In October 2017, Tom Golisano announced his donation of $5 million toward this new center, which will open in 2019, will provide the greater Rochester community a new, critically-needed home base for child and adolescent behavioral health services. The new building will be the primary outpatient location for the children’s hospital’s Pediatric Behavioral Health & Wellness program, which treats children with depression, anxiety, psychosis, substance abuse, PTSD, and other behavioral and emotional conditions, and will be staffed by a multidisciplinary team that includes child psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, mental health counselors, nurses, and more.

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Golisano Training Center at Nazareth College

Nazareth broke ground on June 14, 2018 on the new $23.5M 91,000-square-foot center will bring together the strengths of Nazareth College, Special Olympics, and the Golisano Foundation to create a new model of inclusion, fitness, and wellness for athletes with intellectual disabilities. It will open in Fall 2019. Tom Golisano made a gift of $7.5 million toward the new center.

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Golisano Institute for Developmental Disability Nursing

The Golisano Institute for Developmental Disability Nursing is the first institute of its kind in the country, and has local, national, and international impact.  Fully integrated into Fisher’s Wegmans School of Nursing it is designed to transform the health care and support of individuals with developmental disabilities. Its mission is to generate an international cadre of health care professionals prepared with the knowledge, professional skills, and competencies to effectively support individuals with Developmental Disabilities (DD) throughout the life span and across settings. In 2021 The Golisano Fellowship in Developmental Disability Nursing was launched, a 12-month program designed to develop nursing thought leaders who support and promote the health and well-being of persons with ID/DD across their lifespan and settings. St. John Fisher College, Tom Golisano and the Golisano Foundation announced the creation of the Golisano Institute on October 30, 2018, which was made possible with a $5.8 million gift including $5 million from Tom Golisano and $800,000 from the Golisano Foundation. Tom Golisano and the Foundation gave another gift of $5 million announced on December 5, 2023 to expand the Institute's impact and reach.

Related News & Resources

What is Intellectual Disability? - Special Olympics

Estimated Prevalence of Children With Diagnosed Developmental Disabilities in the United States, 2014–2016 - CDC

Students with disabilities - National Center for Education Statistics

Intellectual disability is a below-average cognitive ability with three (3) characteristics - The ARC

About Developmental Disabilities - CDC

Disability Statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau in 2017/2018

Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities - NIH

Eunice Kennedy Shriver Intellectual & Developmental Disabilities Research Centers (EKS-IDDRCs)

Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Branch (IDDB) - NIH

Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Research Centers (IDDRCs) - Association of University Centers on Disabilities

Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities (LEND) programs

University Centers for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities Education, Research, and Service (UCEDD) 

Disability and health - WHO