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Original Issue

GOLD STANDARD

WHY SPECIAL OLYMPICS IS WORTH FUNDING

IT IS difficult to determine from where within the Department of Education came the idea to zero-out Special Olympics in its budget proposal for the third straight year. Secretary Betsy DeVos claimed she "wasn't personally involved," but in March, she tried to defend the cut before a Congressional subcommittee, then watched as President Trump, recognizing a deus ex machina moment, swept in and restored the $17.6 million. "I love the Special Olympics," he said. So, apparently, does DeVos, who last year donated part of her $199,700 salary to SO and proclaimed the organization "awesome" during the hearing.

Everyone loves Special Olympics. Everyone has some idea of what it has done to change the world.

Here's one thing. In 2017 Nils Kastberg, a Special Olympics board member, took a trip to Tanzania to investigate conditions at the notoriously squalid Nyarugusu refugee camp. That's what Special Olympics people do. He came upon a 15-year-old intellectually challenged boy who was kept in chains by his mother, not because she was a bad mother but because this was the only way she knew how to protect him, from himself and from others.

Kastberg sprung into action, negotiating with the boy's mother and local Special Olympic reps to release him to begin practicing soccer. And last month, Malakai Nibikora, the boy who was once in chains, competed for Tanzania in Abu Dhabi, the first Special Olympics World Games held in the Middle East/North Africa region.

Over the 51 years since Eunice Kennedy Shriver created Special Olympics, there have been thousands of stories like this, most untold, that unspool in private households and public stadiums and arenas where intellectually challenged kids compete in sports and are finally able to deliver this message: Hey, I matter too.

DeVos correctly observed that Special Olympics "is well supported by the philanthropic sector." But private monies support only one part of what Special Olympics has become. "Federal funds support our schools-based intervention," Tim Shriver, chairman of Special Olympics, told SI. "They support our role as an education organization in classrooms, hallways, lunchrooms and gyms all over the country. The day-to-day philanthropy supports our day-to-day sports programs, but the federal funds support our education programs, a critical part of our mission."

Special Olympics is one of the few things that has united a fractionalized country, made all of us smile, and oh, yes, improved the lives of millions of the faceless and voiceless. Let's save time next year: Include it in the budget and spare us the controversy.

SIGN OF THE APOCALYPSE

AN OKLAHOMA WOMAN WAS ARRESTED AFTER SHE USED A T-SHIRT CANNON TO LAUNCH CONTRABAND OVER THE WALL OF A PRISON.

THEY SAID IT

"HE IS NOT GOD."

POPE FRANCIS on his fellow Argentine Lionel Messi. His Holiness conceded the Barcelona star is "a joy" to watch.