Says competitor Dave Schottle in the Washington Post:
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos came before a congressional subcommittee to defend a budget proposal that would eliminate all $17.6 million in federal funding for the Special Olympics.
“Man, I mean, that’s a tough one,” Schottle, 29, said in an interview with the Post. “All I can do is pray for the Special Olympics.”
The competition — started in 1968 by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the sister of President John F. Kennedy — is more than a set of sporting events.
It’s an international community, said Schottle, who began to take part in the Games when he was in seventh grade in Sugar Land, Tex., earning his nickname “Tank” as a defensive tackle on the football field.
Now, he plays six sports: softball, basketball, track, bocce, volleyball and golf. A fan page on Facebook has more than 6,000 followers. The videos he records on Twitter describing what being a Special Olympian means to him draw thousands of likes. In 2008, the 5-foot-7 teenager, who has an intellectual disability, was named “Special Olympian of the Year” in Texas.
The Special Olympics runs programs for more than 5 million athletes in more than 170 countries. It celebrates the contributions of children and adults with intellectual disabilities, a class of people who are often abused and ignored, “giving them continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy and participate in a sharing of gifts,” according to the group’s mission statement.
For Schottle, the Special Olympics has affirmed his sense of self, and the strength of his relationships with people all over the world.
“We’re all humans just like everybody else,” he said. “We can do great things in this world. No matter what happens, we want to continue to bring love and joy to people around the world.”
He abstained from criticizing the Trump administration for recommending cuts to an organization that has been at the center of his life for the past 18 years. He offered, “I don’t like to attack anyone.”
“I do pray that we continue — for me personally, I want to continue,” he said. “As far as the government and that situation, I can’t control what they do, but I pray that it doesn’t happen. I’m praying for the Special Olympics.”