WASHINGTON, D.C. – February 9, 2012 — Special Olympics and Best Buddies participants and supporters joined together yesterday on Capitol Hill to meet with America’s elected leaders to urge continued commitment to the work of the late Eunice Kennedy Shriver and to make sure that people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) are top of the mind when critical decisions are made for the country. Throughout the day, athletes and ambassadors met face-to-face with their congressional representatives in more than 300 scheduled appointments. The group, made up of people with and without IDD, advocated the passage of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver Act of 2011.
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.
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 urged members of Congress to support critical government programs that address these needs. They also advocated passage of 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, which expired in 2010. This combined legislation continues the legacy of Shriver by authorizing critical funds for specific programs supporting people with IDD in sports, health, education, and employment program initiatives.
Following their time with members of Congress, a special evening candlelight vigil was held around the Capitol Reflecting Pool as a tribute to Eunice Kennedy Shriver and as a poignant reminder of the ongoing and urgent needs of people with people with IDD, and everyone’s ability to aid in the fight for the civil rights of all citizens.
Special Olympics Chairman and CEO Dr. Timothy Shriver invoked the spirit of Americans who have fought for civil rights, including his mother, Special Olympics Founder Eunice Kennedy Shriver, during the candlelight vigil: “We stand here today, in the tradition of great people who fought for a country where people are judged for who they are. We stand here now among people who are every bit as great as they were: the athletes, Buddies, leaders and volunteers of these two great movements. Let justice and righteousness be our motto.”
“As we leave Capitol Hill tonight, please remember that our job here is to protect and support programs that serve people with intellectual disabilities,” said Special Olympics Southern California athlete Lindsay Mibach. “We need to work hard and stay focused and continue to prove to our representatives that we are worthy of our government's investment.”
Best Buddies Ambassador Edward Corser of Miami, Florida called the crowd to action: “What if Best Buddies and the Special Olympics didn't exist? What if our representatives on the Hill dared to help us grow even more? What if through the help of Best Buddies and Special Olympics YOU took the initiative to make a better life for yourself? Take the initiative. Be the voice. Make a change.”
Special Olympics and Best Buddies constituents demonstrated through their advocacy why Congress should enact legislation to expand these highly effective programs. Special Olympics and Best Buddies provide experiences that truly transcend the playing field and transform our classrooms, our workplaces, and our communities.
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 International
Best Buddies® is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated toestablishing 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.
High resolution images from the event are available at:
Mandy Murphy Jennifer Hanlon
Special Olympics Inc. Best Buddies
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