Government will fund Special Olympics after back and forth in Washington

Hannah Swayze • Mar 30, 2019 at 12:47 AM

After a week of back-and-forth in Washington, Special Olympics will retain its funding.

And that’s good news for the more than 500 athletes involved in Upper-East Tennessee Area 3 Special Olympics.

U.S. Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos came under fire earlier this week for proposed budget cuts to the Special Olympics programs for the 2020 fiscal year budget.

After she defended the move to eliminate the $17.6 million spent per year for the Special Olympics, President Donald Trump responded to public outcry by telling reporters in front of the While House that he authorized the funding.

The Special Olympics is an international non-profit that provides year-round sport training and competitions in Olympic-like sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities. Founded in 1968, it now operates in communities around the world.

Locally, Upper-East Tennessee Area 3 Special Olympics provides more than 500 athletes over 8 years old with year-round athletic training and competitions in sports like bocce ball, track and field, bowling and more. It’s completely volunteer-based.

“Those events really give athletes the opportunity to come together for a common purpose, to be able to compete with one another, see people they don’t normally get to see every day so it’s a socializing aspect as well. And it also provides a lot of physical fitness and fair competition for them. It’s an overall good aspect for their personal lives,” said Rachel Simpson, co-director of Upper-East Area 3 Special Olympics.

While she couldn’t speak directly to the federal funding for this branch of the Special Olympics, Simpson said she understands organizing a budget and the process to obtain any kind of funding is a complex and complicated process. She also mentioned that a lot of their local events are fueled by fundraisers and donations specifically from those in East Tennessee.

“We are very fortunate to have a lot of great support within Tennessee for our athletes and for our events and just any continued support that folks can provide, because we’re all volunteer-based, is amazing,” said Simpson.

Simpson said that volunteers are always welcome and they anyone can sign up by going emailing [email protected] To learn more about the local Special Olympics, or to get involved, visit http://www.specialolympicstn-area3.org/index.htm.

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