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Virginia Makes Case of Impact and Need on Capitol Hill

Special Olympics Virginia advocated for people with intellectual disabilities on Capitol Hill at Hill Day, March 12, 2014.
Special Olympics Virginia advocated for people with intellectual disabilities on Capitol Hill at Hill Day, March 12, 2014.

Special Olympics athletes, leaders and family members from 38 states, including three from Virginia, converged on Capitol Hill March 12 for Special Olympics’ 11th annual “Capitol Hill Day.”Throughout the day, Special Olympics athletes held more than two hundred and fifty face-to-face meetings with their Congressional representatives to advocate for continued federal support for critical health and education services provided by Special Olympics that transcend the playing field and transform classrooms, communities and lives.

Virginia’s Jerry Holy (Global Messenger and Area 23 athlete), Traci LaGanke (mom of Young Athlete, Nicholas), and David Thomason (our Vice President of Advancement), spent the day educating lawmakers and their staffs about the real and significant social consequences that arise from the stigma and stereotype that people with intellectual and developmental disabilities face. They were able to effectively convey the high-impact and cost-effectiveness of Special Olympics’ programming that addresses these issues, securing support from numerous bi-partisan legislators.

"It was an honor and a privilege to be a voice on the Hill for Special Olympics,” said Traci. “I am so pleased to have worked with Jerry and David to share the message about the Healthy Athletes program and personally ask Virginia's members of Congress to reauthorize the Sport & Empowerment Act. I also am beyond inspired and encouraged by the support of House Leader & Congressman Eric Cantor. He, Senator Tim Kaine, Senator Mark Warner and many others have shown true bipartisan support for the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act and we hope Leader Cantor can bring it to the floor for vote and passage very soon. It will be, yet, another way for parents like me to prepare financially for our children's future and when we, as parents, can no longer care for our children, we will feel confident knowing we have prepared a way for them."

Traci, Jerry and David met with 10 Congressional leaders and staff members, including Chief of Staff Mike Henry and Kristen Molloy in Senator Tim Kaine’s office, Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Christopher Maneval with Rep. Randy Forbes’ office, Patience Wiggins in Rep. Gerry Connolly’s office, Amanda Armstrong in Rep. Bobby Scott’s office, Mike Lucier and Nora Sarsour with Rep. James Moran’s office, Adam Harbison in Rep.Morgan Griffith’s office, Eric Bromley in Rep. Rob Wittman’s office, and Lindsey Yates with Rep. Bob Goodlatte’s office.

Cantor shared this after the visit: “It was an honor to meet with several athletes representing Virginia's Special Olympics today. I always enjoy cheering them on when they compete at the University of Richmond. Yesterday, the Senate passed the Gabriella Miller Kids First Research Act, a bill to reprioritize money for pediatric research at the NIH, which will now go to the President’s desk to be signed into law. While it is but one step in advancing pediatric medical research, more must be done. I will keep fighting to help children with special needs and to promote research to improve the quality of life for our children. I thank those at the Virginia Special Olympics for all that they do in our communities to support individuals with special needs, and look forward to continuing to work with them to support our Virginia Special Olympians.”

You also can advocate for this critical programming by calling or emailing your member of Congress. Find out how to reach him or her at http://www.contactingthecongress.org/.