Special Olympics athletes and advocates from across the United States converged on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on February 12 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, including North Carolina.
Special Olympics athletes held over 300 face-to-face meetings with Members of Congress in both the House and Senate, inviting their elected officials to partner with them to expand Special Olympics Unified Sports® and Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools®. The meetings served to educate lawmakers about the need to end health care and education disparities and discrimination against roughly 1% of the US population with intellectual disabilities. The goals of Capitol Hill Day were to convey the high impact of Special Olympics’ evidence-based programming that addresses these issues.
The delegation from Special Olympics North Carolina included: SONC President/CEO Keith Fishburne of Wake Forest, SONC Senior Vice President Kelly Vaughn of Clayton, SONC Athlete Stephanie Wilkerson of Thomasville, SONC parent Lori Wilkerson of Thomasville, SONC Athlete McKenna Priebe of Wake Forest and SONC Youth Leader Olivia Rudolph of Wake Forest.
Throughout the day, participants met face-to-face with their Members of Congress including US Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC), US Senator Richard Burr (R-NC), Congressman Ted Budd (R-NC13) and Congressman David Rouzer (R-NC7). The SONC Delegation also met with staff members representing Congressman David Price (D-NC4), Congressman Patrick McHenry (R-NC10), Congressman G.K. Butterfield (D-NC1), Congressman Mark Meadows (R-NC11), Congressman Mark Walker (R-NC6), Congressman Richard Hudson (R-NC8) and Congressman George Holding (R-NC2).
“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,” said Tim Shriver, Chairman of Special Olympics.
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 youth leaders and educators to create inclusive schools. Students with and without intellectual disabilities are playing and competing together through Special Olympics Unified Sports. These experiences help increase acceptance of all abilities in classrooms and are reducing stigma and bullying.
Special Olympics offers free health events where Special Olympics athletes receive health screenings and education, and where health professionals are trained to offer health access to people with intellectual disabilities. 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.
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. 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 North Carolina
Since 1968, Special Olympics North Carolina has used the transformative power of sports to improve the lives of children and adults with intellectual disabilities. Nearly 40,000 athletes in North Carolina inspire thousands of coaches, sports officials, local program committee members and event organizers involved in Special Olympics statewide. SONC offers year-round training and competition in 19 Olympic-type sports on local and state levels as well as health and wellness initiatives to improve the health status and increase access to community health resources for individuals with intellectual disabilities. Youth become agents of change through Unified Champion Schools, an education and sports-based program created by Special Olympics to build an inclusive environment among youth with and without intellectual disabilities as well as empower them to become youth leaders and create change in their community. Visit Special Olympics North Carolina at www.specialolympicsnc.com. Engage with us on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and YouTube.