WASHINGTON--- House Majority Whip Roy Blunt (Mo.) and House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (Md.) today introduced legislation authorizing several programs for Special Olympics, including the design and implementation of Special Olympics education programs, the expansion of international participation, and the improvement and implementation of the Special Olympics Healthy Athletes program.
“The United States Congress enthusiastically supports Special Olympics and recognizes its importance in improving the lives of people with intellectual disabilities,” said Congressman Blunt. “It’s not often that Democrats, Republicans, Senators and House Members stand together in total agreement on the importance of an issue. This authorization proves our commitment to Special Olympics and all of its participants.”
“The Special Olympics opened doors to people with intellectual disabilities that were closed before its inception,” said Congressman Hoyer. “The athletes who participate help dispel stereotypes about people with disabilities and show the world that they have unlimited potential and physical capabilities. In addition to allowing Special Olympics to continue its great work, this bill will allow it to expand its activities to reach even more future athletes. “
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.) plan to introduce companion legislation in the Senate.