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Unkindest cut of all from DeVos: Special Olympics funding

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos spoke during a House Appropriations subcommittee hearing on budget on Capitol Hill in Washington on Tuesday.Andrew Harnik/AP

I read “Joe Kennedy on proposed cuts to Special Olympics: ‘This will never happen. Full stop.’ ” (BostonGlobe.com, March 27) with both deep concern that the secretary of education would even consider eliminating federal funding for the Special Olympics and great appreciation for US Representative Kennedy’s swift and committed reaction.

The Special Olympics is not just an athletic program for people with disabilities. It is an organization that changes lives. When Eunice Kennedy Shriver founded the Special Olympics, she changed the world. I know she changed my life before I even had the privilege to meet her.

My oldest child, Jonathan, was born with Down syndrome and four heart defects. The first time I saw him, after he was whisked away to nearby Boston Children’s Hospital, he was hooked up to more machines than I had ever seen. I stroked his tiny leg and whispered into his ear, “You may never be in the Olympics, but maybe you will be in the Special Olympics.”


My dream for Jonathan came true. He is an accomplished athlete and Special Olympian, placing third in the world in golf, an honor he won after playing five consecutive 18-hole rounds of golf on the notoriously difficult Yale golf course and following PGA rules mandating he walk each round.

As the mother of a child with special needs, past board member of Special Olympics, and someone who has dedicated her career to helping children and adults with disabilities have full, meaningful lives, I know firsthand how important this organization is and how the thought of cutting the funding it needs to survive and thrive is simply unconscionable.

Jo Ann Simons

President and CEO

Northeast Arc