March 24, 2023

My 2023 Capitol Hill Day Experience

This year’s Capitol Hill Day was not my very first (I have been to eight many others!), but it was our 1st in-individual Hill Working day in a number of a long time and I was so psyched to be again! It was wonderful to see so lots of of my most loved people in man or woman and to meet up with so many new individuals.

Capitol Hill Day, the day that Distinctive Olympics athletes check out our Associates of Congress to advocate for their continued help of our function, is one particular of my most loved situations all yr. It is so essential for athlete leaders to get the opportunity to communicate directly to our reps and senators about the important function that Unique Olympics does, primarily in wellness and training. I adore acquiring to go to our Users of Congress and going for walks by way of the halls of the legislative buildings with all my fellow athletes from Maryland and from all over the state.

A group of Special Olympics athletes, Unified partners and staff members pose for a photo outside the US Capitol.

The Distinctive Olympics Maryland delegation experienced an incredible time at Capitol Hill Day!

Like with sports activities coaching, you have to get ready for Capitol Hill Day, no matter whether you happen to be undertaking it for the 1st time or have been accomplishing it for many years! To prepare for Hill Working day, I created bullet factors of my wellbeing tale to share with the legislators and practiced it many times. I desired to be guaranteed I realized specifically what I wanted to say in the course of our meetings. I also ensured that I experienced more than enough signed athlete investing playing cards to give to individuals I talked to, and shined up my medal and pins to put on while strolling into conferences.

When we arrived in DC on Monday, we had further preparation time thanks to the teaching classes hosted by Specific Olympics, Inc. We all attended a common session that went around Capitol Hill Day basics like how to get from assembly to assembly, what goods we should really leave with our Users of Congress and what to do in case we acquired a question we failed to know how to solution.

Then it was time for breakout classes – which I liked! I attended a social media instruction, led by my pal and fellow Unique Olympics Maryland athlete, RJ Nealon, from Distinctive Olympics North The usa. He taught us the relevance of making use of the hashtag #SOHillDay on our social posts and gave us suggestions on what kinds of matters we need to share on social media over the upcoming couple times. I’m a massive lover of social media so this was a terrific session for me to go to!

A group of four Special Olympics athletes pose for a photo.

I really relished facilitating conversations all through 1 of the Capitol Hill Working day prep periods with (from left to proper) Allen, Dustin and Haley.

I also co-led “Supporting and Controlling Your Delegation” with Alyssa Cress from Specific Olympics, Inc., where by I assisted direct conversations on how mentors can support athletes in their meetings for the duration of Capitol Hill Working day. This involved when I did some improv to help display what mentors must and ought to not do for their athletes in the course of the assembly. Eventually, I served Dustin Plunkett, from Special Olympics Southern California, facilitate breakout teams all through his “Writing Your Story, Pt. 3” session.

Just after some dinner and milkshakes, we all turned in early. It had been a chaotic but good day and we all essential our rest for a large day on Capitol Hill!

We had been up brilliant and early on Tuesday early morning to consume breakfast (the eggs, bacon, and hashbrowns ended up mouth watering!) in advance of a total day of meetings. Specific Olympics Maryland introduced a massive team of 20 individuals to DC so we split up into two groups to head to our conferences. My group included me, a Unified pair of college students from Crofton Higher Faculty, a mother or father, an additional Special Olympics athlete, and many staff associates. It truly is critical that we costume professionally on Capitol Hill and we constantly try out to don crimson so I experienced on my good white shirt, Maryland flag bow tie (that I tied on my own the night ahead of, which is pretty enormous!), black trousers and my Exclusive Olympics pink pullover.  I additional my gold medal from the 2022 Exclusive Olympics North The us Tennis Championships and was prepared to go!

Our initial meeting was with a staff member of Representative Dutch Ruppersberger’s office environment.  I shared my overall health tale in our presentation and talked about how I have become more physically match through Special Olympics many thanks to the hundreds of miles I bicycle just about every yr (I average about 1,500 miles of riding just about every year). This and the 5 other sports I compete in have helped me to keep in good shape! I also shared how important it is to train health-related specialists how to have a improved bedside way and treat people with intellectual disabilities with additional respect throughout their appointments.

In the course of a crack among conferences, we took a stroll in the United States Botanic Garden and hung out on the National Mall. Our upcoming conference was on the Senate aspect of the Capitol with the personnel of Senator Chris Van Hollen. Halfway via our conference, Senator Chris Van Hollen did a surprise walk-in and needed to meet us and listen to our tales. He explained to us that we experienced his whole guidance all over again and thanked all of us for coming and then took a photograph with us.

A group of Special Olympics athletes, Unified partners and staff pose for a photo with a Member of Congress.

We were being so astonished when Senator Chris Van Hollen (again row, center) joined our assembly!

That evening, during the reception, I relished looking at lots of mates from all-around the region again and individuals I know from SOI like Tim Shriver, Mary Davis, and quite a few other team associates. It was so exciting to listen to tales from other delegations’ conferences!

Capitol Hill Working day is an vital and impactful celebration that gives our athletes a voice to share why Exclusive Olympics is critical to them. It is amazing that men and women with mental disabilities get to be leaders generating transform. I am grateful for the help our Users of Congress give to Unique Olympics each and every 12 months. If a Specific Olympics athlete arrives to a long run Capitol Hill Day occasion, they will be a voice that “leads the way” for their fellow athletes bettering our movement and supporting all people appear collectively as a “Unified Generation!”

If you would like to sign up for us in encouraging our Associates of Congress to help Exclusive Olympics, you can call them below.