Special Olympics Texas Delegates to Champion for Inclusion and Need for Critical Funding on Capitol Hill

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE : February 14, 2023



WASHINGTON, D.C. – February 14, 2023 – Special Olympics athletes, organization leaders, Unified Sports® partners, and family members from across the United States and the District of Columbia will converge on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. on February 13th-15th for Special Olympics’ annual “Capitol Hill Day.” This is the 21st year Special Olympics has organized the event, which includes over 260 delegates representing 47 states and the District of Columbia. 

Special Olympics athletes will lead more than 250 face-to-face meetings with Members of Congress in both the House and Senate, inviting their elected officials to partner with them to support inclusive education and health initiatives for people with intellectual disabilities (ID). Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools® programming is in over 8,300 schools across the United States, with a goal of being in 10,000 schools by 2024. Special Olympics is out to erase health disparities for people with ID. Through free health screenings and training current and future healthcare providers, Special Olympics is ensuring that people with intellectual disabilities get follow-up care when and where they need it.

Special Olympics athletes, serving as self-advocates, will educate lawmakers and their staff about the stigma faced by people with ID, and how high-impact and cost-effective Special Olympics programming in sports, health, and education can reduce discrimination. The advocates will also request continued support from legislators for evidence-based programming that benefits all Americans, regardless of ability. 

Representatives from Special Olympics Texas are attending Capitol Hill Day to ask the U.S. Department of Education for $40 million to fund their Unified Champion Schools initiative and $25 million from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for their Healthy Athletes program. 

"It is critical that we relay the urgency in helping to prevent bullying in schools for those with and without intellectual disabilities,” says Special Olympics Texas Associate Executive Director J’Nette Thorne. “The Unified Champion Schools initiative helps us do just that. Through inclusion, no one is left out.”

Healthy Athletes is a Special Olympics program that provides free health screenings in a fun, welcoming environment that removes the anxiety and trepidation people with intellectual disabilities often experience when visiting a doctor or dentist. Over the last 25 years, Special Olympics has given 2 million free screenings and trained over 300,000 health workers worldwide. “I have seen firsthand how it changes the life of an athlete who could not see because he couldn’t afford glasses. What a difference it made in his life. That is why we are here advocating for funds to make a difference in their lives” says J’Nette Thorne.

"Special Olympics athletes and youth leaders continue to lead us in a worldwide revolution of inclusion, a collective fight to end discrimination for people with intellectual disabilities,” said Tim Shriver, Chairman of Special Olympics. Shriver added, “The U.S. government’s support is an essential part of this collaborative fight, not only to help fund critical programming but to also preserve laws guaranteeing the rights and full participation and integration of people with intellectual disabilities into our society.”

In more than 8,300 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. Social inclusion is promoted by bringing together young people with and without ID on sports teams (Special Olympics Unified Sports®), through inclusive student clubs, and by fostering youth leadership. As many as 19.5 million young people are participating in these experiences, which are increasing acceptance of people of all abilities while simultaneously reducing stigma and bullying.

Digitized records show that since 2016, Special Olympics has trained over 70,000 healthcare professionals and students, and completed over 200,000 health screenings. Globally, over the past 25 years, Special Olympics has conducted over two million health screenings and trained over 300,000 health professionals.

The results are striking: 

  • Young adults with intellectual disabilities who participate in Special Olympics are half as likely to be diagnosed with depression as those who do not participate.  
  • Special Olympics athletes who participate in Special Olympics fitness programming experience improved blood pressure, with those at high-risk for cardiovascular disease seeing the greatest improvement. 

In addition to federal U.S. government funding, Special Olympics also receives funds from private foundations, corporations, and individuals. Public and private support is critical for Special Olympics to offer education and health programming to participants at no cost.

About Special Olympics Texas
Special Olympics Texas (SOTX) is a privately funded non-profit 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.  SOTX provides continuing opportunities for more than 58,800 children and adults with intellectual disabilities throughout the Lone Star State to realize their potential, develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage and experience joy and friendship.  To learn more, visit www.specialolympicstexas.org or call 800.876.5646.  Engage with us on: Twitter @SOTexas; fb.com/SpecialOlympicsTX; youtube.com/specialolympicstexas.