Special Olympics & Best Buddies Converge on Capitol Hill to Urge for Critical Government Support

February 03, 2012

Candlelight Vigil

WHEN: Wed. Feb. 8 at 5:30 PM EST
WHERE: Capitol Reflecting Pool, D.C.

Members Advocate for Passage of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver Act of 2012

Washington, D.C. – February 3, 2012 - People with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) along with family members, coaches and leaders from Special Olympics and Best Buddies International are coming to the nation’s capital to fight for equality. 

On Wednesday February 8th, delegations from Special Olympics athletes and Best Buddies from more than 40 states, will participate in their annual ‘Capitol Hill Day’ to urge continued commitment to the work of the late Eunice Kennedy Shriver and to meet with America’s elected leaders to make sure that people with intellectual disabilities are top of the mind when critical decisions are made for the country.  Shriver dedicated her life to providing opportunities for children and adults with IDD to become fully integrated into society.  Shriver, who passed away in August 2009, founded Special Olympics in 1968 and was a longtime advocate and board member of Best Buddies, founded in 1989.

Because people with IDD continue to lack access to essential human services - ranging from employment opportunities to access to healthcare - Special Olympics and Best Buddies supporters will urge members of Congress to support critical government programs that address these needs.  They will also advocate passing The Eunice Kennedy Shriver Act, which will continue a national commitment that the U.S. Congress made with passage of the 2004 Special Olympics Sport and Empowerment Act.  The Eunice Kennedy Shriver Act incorporates the Best Buddies Empowerment for People with Intellectual Disabilities Act passed by the U.S. House of Representatives in April 2009.  This combined legislation continues the legacy of Shriver by authorizing funds for specific programs supporting people with IDD in sports, health, education and employment program initiatives. 

Special Olympics and Best Buddies constituents will demonstrate, through their advocacy and the incredible successes and potential for future growth of people with IDD, why Congress should enact legislation to expand these highly effective programs. Special Olympics and Best Buddies provide experiences that truly transcend the playing field, transform the classroom, workplaces and communities.


Quick Facts

•  Special Olympics Project UNIFY, funded in large part by the U.S. Department of Education, is a program happening in 2100 schools nationwide that brings students with and without IDD together through education, youth leadership and sports related initiatives, creating more inclusive school communities. Students involved report positive experiences that changed the way they interact with their classmates, becoming more patient (76%), learning to compromise (78%), and learning that they have things in common with their peers with IDD (65%). Best Buddies’ friendship programs – Best Buddies Middle Schools, High Schools, Colleges, and Citizens - bring youth and adults with and without IDD together through one-to-one matching, creating the foundation for real and natural friendships to develop.  These friendships create inclusive environments in schools and communities.  Best Buddies participants are more likely than peers to have few disciplinary incidents, read at grade level, and complete high school.  Best Buddies participants outperformed a comparison group of students with similar exceptionalities by nine percentage points or more in reading at grade level. Additionally, 96% of volunteers without IDD have a more positive attitude about the abilities of people with IDD due to their participation in Best Buddies.

•  Only 33% of people with disabilities (and many fewer with IDD) are employed, compared to 73% employment amongst people without disabilities. Best Buddies Jobs helps individuals with IDD attain and maintain competitive jobs by providing ongoing support and training, enabling them to earn an income, pay taxes, and work in an integrated environment. Since its inception, Best Buddies Jobs has placed more than 500 individuals in integrated employment positions. Also, 52% of working age Special Olympics athletes in the United States are employed.

•  People with IDD are also in dire need of quality health care. Special Olympics’ Healthy Athletes Program has provided more than 1.2 million free health screenings to athletes with IDD. Each year, more than 165,000 athletes receive free health screenings, including eye glasses, hearing aids, clinical tests/exams, education, preventive supplies, and referrals for follow up care.  

Candlelight Vigil and more

Following their time with members of Congress, a special candlelight vigil will be held around the Capitol Reflecting Pool at 5:30 PM EST, as a tribute to Eunice Kennedy Shriver and poignant reminder of everyone’s ability to aid in the fight for the civil rights of everyone.

“This is the time that this civil rights movement be recognized,” shared Special Olympics Chairman and CEO, Tim Shriver. “The Eunice Kennedy Shriver Act is about real athletes and real change. Over the course of the last decade we have countless examples of how people with intellectual disabilities have been positively impacted by the Federal support we have been given and we hope to continue those benefits and more with new support.”

“It is always an honor and privilege to share our mission of inclusion and respect with our leaders in Washington,” said Best Buddies International Founder and Chairman, Anthony K. Shriver. “It brings us all such a great sense of joy when we witness firsthand the talents and energy that people with disabilities bring to our schools, our communities, and our workplaces. I know all our elected officials walk away feeling so inspired by the boundless potential of our athletes and ambassadors. How could anyone not want to invest in such a wealth of untapped talent in America.”

More than 200 million people worldwide have IDD, making this the largest disability group worldwide. Intellectual and developmental disabilities cross racial, ethnic, educational, social, and economic lines, and can occur in any family.

About Special Olympics
Special Olympics is an international organization that changes lives through the power of sport by encouraging and empowering people with intellectual disabilities, promoting acceptance for all, and fostering communities of understanding and respect worldwide. Founded in 1968 by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the Special Olympics movement has grown from a few hundred athletes to more than 3.7 million athletes in over 170 countries in all regions of the world, providing year-round sports training, athletic competition and other related programs. Special Olympics now take place every day, changing the lives of people with intellectual disabilities all over the world, from community playgrounds and ball fields in every small neighborhood’s backyard to World Games. Special Olympics provides people with intellectual disabilities continuing opportunities to realize their potential, develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, and experience joy and friendship. Visit Special Olympics at www.specialolympics.org. Engage with us on: Twitter @specialolympics; fb.com/specialolympics; youtube.com/specialolympicshq, and specialolympicsblog.wordpress.com.

About Best Buddies
Best Buddies® is a nonprofit organization dedicated to establishing a global volunteer movement that creates opportunities for one-to-one friendships, integrated employment and leadership development for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Founded in 1989 by Anthony K. Shriver, Best Buddies is a vibrant organization that has grown from one original chapter to almost 1,500 middle school, high school, and college chapters worldwide. Today, Best Buddies’ seven formal programs – Middle Schools, High Schools, Colleges, Citizens, e-Buddies® , Jobs and Ambassadors – engage participants in each of the 50 states and in 50 countries, positively impacting the lives of nearly 700,000 people with and without disabilities around the world. As a result of their involvement with Best Buddies, people with intellectual and developmental disabilities secure rewarding jobs, live on their own, become inspirational leaders, and make lifelong friendships. For more information, please visit www.bestbuddies.org, facebook.com/bestbuddies or twitter.com/bestbuddies.

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CONTACT:
Mandy Murphy                                                       
Special Olympics                                         
Ph (202) 824 – 0227       
mamurphy@specialolympics.org

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