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 5-7, 2024 for the annual Special Olympics “Capitol Hill Day.” This long-running event is organized by Special Olympics and includes more than 250 participants and volunteers from 47 states and the District of Columbia.
Special Olympics athletes will lead hundreds of 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 9,400 schools across the United States, with a goal of being in 20,000 schools by 2030. 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.
Meet Special Olympics Virginia's Delegation:
“During our visits on Capitol Hill, conversations with our Senators and Representatives give our athletes and program leaders an unparalleled opportunity to share the Special Olympics Virginia story, their personal involvement with that story, and how our work together with our legislators can impact all Virginians and communities across the commonwealth. We look forward to building continued partnerships for Special Olympics Virginia’s inclusive health and education initiatives, which lead to such important changes for those with and those without disabilities while making Virginia—and Virginians--better every day.”
In more than 9,400 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® programming), through inclusive student clubs, and by fostering youth leadership. As many as 15 million young people are taking part in these experiences, which are increasing acceptance of people of all abilities while simultaneously reducing stigma and bullying.
Since 2016, Special Olympics has trained over 70,000 healthcare professionals and students and completed over 200,000 health screenings. By 2030, Special Olympics aims to serve 500,000 athletes in the United States through health programming.
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.
- Within two months of participation, children participating in Young Athletes programming show remarkable improvement in their motor skills.
In addition to federal U.S. government funding, Special Olympics also receives funds from private foundations, corporations, and individuals to support these initiatives. Public and private support is critical for Special Olympics to offer education and health programming at no cost to participants.