Monday, April 1, 2019

An Open Letter to my Congressman about the Special Olympics

"Write Reps" appears on many voters' to do lists. Writing to Congress can feel like shouting into the wind, but congressional staffers track constituents' letters, and an avalanche of mail on a given subject will get noticed. (If you'd like to cut and paste from my letter to save time, please feel free.)

I have no personal connection to the Special Olympics, other than a stint I spent as a volunteer at Lift Me Up in Virginia during my student days. At the time, Lift Me Up helped a twelve-year-old girl with cerebral palsy who was training for the Special Olympics. Her time on horseback provided a bright spark of happiness amidst a grueling week of less pleasant therapies.

Congressman Joseph Kennedy III
304 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

RE: Please introduce legislation to increase federal funding for the Special Olympics

Dear Congressman Kennedy:

I live in your district, and my son attends a public elementary school in your district. 

Last week, I was shocked to learn that the White House planned to eliminate funding for the Special Olympics. Though I believe the proposed cut was a stunt, designed to distract voters from other news of the day, I was still stunned to learn the Special Olympics receives a paltry $17 million a year from the federal government. I am writing to urge you to introduce legislation to increase funding for the Special Olympics, at least ten-fold.

A budget, whether for a family or a government, is a statement of values. We should value the Special Olympics experience—an experience with a wide bi-partisan constituency, an experience that brings tremendous joy to thousands of children with special needs—at least as highly as we value a ten-pack of presidential golf junkets.

Since your late aunt founded the organization, I doubt you require a lengthy pitch about the worth of the Special Olympics. I’m sure you know that many parents of children with special needs face enormous financial strain, due to the costs of specialized education, medical treatment and various therapies for their children. Shouldn’t the federal government help bring these families a little happiness?

Thank you for your time.

Kindest regards,

Mari Passananti