WASHINGTON, D.C. – February 13, 2019: Special Olympics athletes, Program leaders, Unified Sports partners, and family members from across the United States and the District of Columbia converged on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. on February 12th for Special Olympics’ annual “Capitol Hill Day.” This is the 17th year Special Olympics has organized the event, with over 250 delegates representing 44 states and the District of Columbia.
Special Olympics athletes held more than 300 face-to-face meetings with Members of Congress in both the House and Senate, challenging and inviting their elected officials to partner with them to achieve the goals of expanding Special Olympics Unified Sports® and Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools® programming, and to end health care disparities and discrimination against roughly 1% of the US population with intellectual disabilities (ID) by supporting inclusive health initiatives.
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 and developmental disabilities. They described how that impacts their lives in the areas of sports, health care and education. The goals of Capitol Hill Day were to effectively convey the high impact and cost-effectiveness of Special Olympics’ evidence-based programming that addresses these issues, to educate lawmakers and to secure continued support from legislators.
“No one can better articulate a vision for a more inclusive America or demonstrate how a nation can unite as one than the athletes and Unified partners of Special Olympics. Our athletes and youth leaders will lead us in a revolution of inclusion, our collective fight to end discrimination for people with intellectual disabilities. But we can’t do it alone. We need governmental support to preserve laws guaranteeing the rights and full participation and integration of people with intellectual disabilities into our society.”
Joining the athletes, youth leaders and staff members for the second time was Special Olympics Global Ambassador and former NFL wide receiver Dale Moss. Moss said, “I’ve seen first-hand how proper healthcare and education for people with intellectual disabilities is life changing, and how powerful the stories are to share with our government representatives. Having our government’s support ensures the needs of those with ID are not only met, but the support cultivates advancement of an inclusive culture throughout the nation.”
Capitol Hill Day would not be possible without Johnson & Johnson’s continued support. Their on-going commitment allows Special Olympics delegates from across the nation to travel to Washington, D.C. and receive comprehensive training and education to best prepare them for an effective and successful Capitol Hill Day.
“Johnson & Johnson prioritizes health and wellness for all people. We are honored to partner with Special Olympics during their Capitol Hill Day,” said Jane M. Adams, Vice President, Federal Government Affairs, Johnson & Johnson. “Effective advocacy is essential to raise awareness with elected officials and to secure public policy efforts to promote Special Olympics’ mission and commitment to important health programs.”
In more than 6,000 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 ID in all aspects of school life. Students with and without ID 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 in classrooms across the country, and are reducing stigma and bullying
Special Olympics offers free health events where Special Olympics athletes receive free health screenings and health education, and where health professionals are trained and inspired to offer year-round health access to people with ID in their home communities. Over the past 20 plus years, in the U.S. alone, Special Olympics provided over 900,000 health screenings and trained over 98,000 health care professionals. Globally, Special Olympics has provided over 2.3 million free health screenings in over 135 countries and trained over 279,000 health care professionals.
For every dollar provided by U.S. federal funds to the Special Olympics Health program, the organization is able to leverage additional funds from private individuals and organizations to secure high quality health services to people with ID. 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 inclusion movement using sport, health, education and leadership programs every day around the world to end discrimination against and empower people with intellectual disabilities. Founded in 1968, and celebrating its 50th Anniversary through July of 2019, the Special Olympics movement has grown to more than 6 million athletes and Unified Sports partners in more than 170 countries. With the support of more than 1 million coaches and volunteers, Special Olympics delivers 32 Olympic-type sports and over 100,000 games and competitions throughout the year. Special Olympics is supported by individuals, foundations and partners, including Bank of America, the Christmas Records Trust, The Coca-Cola Company, ESPN, Essilor Vision Foundation, the Golisano Foundation, the Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics, Lions Clubs International, Microsoft, Safilo Group, Stavros Niarchos Foundation, TOYOTA, United Airlines, and The Walt Disney Company. Click here for a full list of partners. Engage with us on: Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and our blog on Medium. Learn more at www.SpecialOlympics.org.
Director, Marketing and Communications
Special Olympics North America