WASHINGTON--- House Majority Whip Roy Blunt (Mo.) and House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (Md.), sponsors of legislation authorizing several programs for Special Olympics, applauded its unanimous passage late last night.
“Political competition is the backbone of our democracy,” said Congressman Blunt. “Nevertheless, I am proud that lawmakers put aside their partisan differences and voted to empower people with intellectual disabilities through an even healthier form of competition – sports. This authorization recognizes the impact of Special Olympics on the lives of its participants and proves Congress’ commitment to the organization.”
“I am thrilled that Congress is moving forward on this important issue so that more people can share in the benefits that Special Olympics offers,” said Congressman Hoyer. “In today's political climate, rarely do we have an opportunity when both Democrats and Republicans unite for a common goal, but with this bill we have done just that. Special Olympics means opportunity for athletes with intellectual disabilities - opportunity to show themselves and the world that they can achieve their dreams. And we're working to make sure as many people as possible will have access to that opportunity.”
The Special Olympics Sport Empowerment Act of 2004 authorizes $15 million for fiscal year 2005 and includes funding for the next 4 years for:
· Healthy Athletes: program to provide critical screening for vision, dental, nutrition, and health promotion of people with intellectual disabilities by volunteer health professionals at the national, state, regional, and world games. Thus far, the Special Olympics Healthy Athletes Program has assisted tens of thousands of persons with intellectual disabilities in communities from around the world.
· Worldwide Expansion: program to increase the number of athletes involved with Special Olympics, with a goal of adding one million new athletes in the next 5 years. Special Olympics will also seek to educate the global community about individuals with intellectual disabilities.
· Character Education: a school-based curriculum and program development tool that offers students of all abilities the chance to learn about differences, reduce the isolation experienced by children with special needs, and engage in creating local Special Olympics teams and events that unite the community.
Senators Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) and Harry Reid (D-Nev.) introduced companion legislation in the Senate last week.