WASHINGTON, D.C. – February 18, 2018 – Special Olympics athletes, program leaders, unified partners, and family members from all 50 states and the District of Columbia converged on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. on February 13 for Special Olympics’ annual “Capitol Hill Day.”
This was the first time in the 16-year history of Capitol Hill Day in which all 50 states were represented, honoring the organization’s 50th Anniversary. Representing Special Olympics Southern California was global messenger and athlete Dustin Plunkett and SOSC Board of Directors Chairman Jeff Krieger.
Special Olympics athletes held more than 250 face-to-face meetings with Members of Congress in both the House and Senate, including 11 in less than seven hours by the SOSC delegation. All ambassadors challenged and invited their elected officials to partner with them to achieve the goals of expanding Special Olympics Unified Sports and Unified Champion Schools programming, and to end health care disparities and discrimination against the 15 million persons with intellectual disabilities in America by supporting inclusive health initiatives.
“I wasn’t sure what to expect at Capitol Hill Day, but I absolutely loved it,” said Krieger. “Meeting with our Special Olympics athletes from every state and seeing them roaming the halls of Congress talking to their representatives about the importance of continuing funding was an amazing experience.”
Special Olympics athletes, serving as self-advocates, educated lawmakers and their staff about the significant consequences that arise from the stigma and stereotypes faced by people with intellectual disabilities. They described how that impacts their lives in the areas of sports, health care and education.
“It was great to be on the Hill again lobbying for Special Olympics and to meet so many athletes who were doing it for the first time ever,” said Plunkett. “It showed me that we have a lot of great stories and athletes that are passionate about making a difference.”
“No one can better articulate a vision for how America can become a more inclusive nation or demonstrate what it means to unite and come together than the athletes and Unified partners of Special Olympics” said Tim Shriver, Chairman of Special Olympics. “Our athletes and youth leaders will lead us into the next 50 years of our fight to end discrimination for people with intellectual disabilities, but we can’t do it alone. We need governmental support to preserve laws that guarantee the rights and full participation and integration of people with intellectual disabilities into our society.”
A member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame and former Washington Redskins legend, Darrell Green, joined Shriver, Special Olympics Global Ambassador Dale Moss, and Special Olympics athletes to urge Members of Congress to make the ideals of inclusion a reality.
Green said, “I am honored to join Special Olympics athletes and leaders from across the nation for the annual Capitol Hill Day. We are inspired by their personal stories and accomplishments. We came away even more committed to ensuring that these amazing athletes, and individuals with intellectual disabilities across the nation, have our full support.”
In more than 5,400 Unified Champion Schools across the country, Special Olympics has trained and mobilized youth leaders and educators to create more inclusive schools by including students with intellectual disabilities (ID) in all aspects of school life. Students with and without intellectual disabilities are also playing and competing together, on the same team, through Special Olympics Unified Sports. These experiences are helping to increase acceptance of all abilities to classrooms across the country, and are reducing stigma and bullying
Special Olympics offers free health events where Special Olympics athletes receive health screenings and health education, and where health professional are trained and inspired to offer year-round health access to people with intellectual disabilities in their home communities. In the past 20 years, in the U.S. alone, Special Olympics provided over 58,000 health screenings and trained over 10,000 health care professionals. Globally, Special Olympics has provided over 1.9 million free health screenings in over 130 countries and trained over 220,000 health care professionals.
For every dollar provided by U.S. federal funds to the Special Olympics Health program, the organization is able to provide $7.42 in high quality health services to people with intellectual disabilities. Public and private support is critical to sustain Special Olympics’ ability to continue to offer these programs to participants at no cost.
About Special Olympics
Special Olympics is a global movement that unleashes the human spirit through the transformative power and joy of sports, every day around the world. We empower people with intellectual disabilities to become included and valued members of their communities, which leads to a more respectful and inclusive society for all. Using sports as the catalyst and programming around health and education, Special Olympics is fighting inactivity, injustice and intolerance. Founded in 1968 by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the Special Olympics movement has grown to more than 5.7 million athletes and Unified partners in 172 countries. With the support of more than 1 million coaches and volunteers, Special Olympics delivers 32 Olympic-type sports and over 108,000 games and competitions throughout the year. Special Olympics is supported by individuals, foundations and partners. Click here for a full list of partners. Engage with us on: Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and our blog on Medium.
About Special Olympics Southern California
Special Olympics Southern California enriches the lives of more than 32,250 athletes with intellectual disabilities and their communities through sports, leadership, and health programs. Founded in 1969 by Olympic decathlon gold medalist Rafer Johnson, Special Olympics Southern California provides free year-round sports training and competitions to children and adults with intellectual disabilities. Participation develops improved physical fitness and motor skills and greater self-confidence. Special Olympics has become the world’s largest movement dedicated to promoting respect, acceptance, inclusion, and human dignity for people with intellectual disabilities. Using sports as the catalyst and programming around health and education, Special Olympics is fighting inactivity, injustice and intolerance. As a result, people with intellectual disabilities become accepted and valued members of their communities, which leads to a more respectful and inclusive society for all. Special Olympics Southern California has earned a 4-star ranking from Charity Navigator for exceeding industry standards. This ranking is the highest Charity Navigator offers to an organization and is given because Special Olympics has demonstrated strong financial health and a commitment to accountability and transparency. Learn how you can get involved at http://www.sosc.org.