On February 11th, four Special Olympics New Jersey representatives (see below) traveled to Washington D.C. for Hill Day to advocate for Special Olympics health, Unified Champion Schools, and sports programs. Check out what our representatives, Trevor, Louis, Paige, and Rosemarie, thought about the experience!
Paige on her thoughts about Hill Day
“On February 11th, 2020, I went to Capitol Hill to advocate for individuals with intellectual disabilities, Unified Champion Schools, health, and how the federal government and CDC funds have given schools and health programs the ability to grow. Along with being a Special Olympics New Jersey(SONJ) athlete representative, I was also a mentor to my friend Rosemarie. She’s a freshman and it was her first Hill Day! We were also with Louis and Trevor, a Unified pair who both graduated high school last year. Although all of us are different in age and some even out of high school, what’s important is we were all advocating for the same thing and thanking our Congressman and Senators for the money we got for SONJ.
When going down to Washington, D.C., Rosemarie told me she was nervous to talk in front of the Congressmen. But, after she got help from me and from some of the seminars, Rosemarie was prepared to go on the hill and talk about her experience as a youth leader in a Unified Champion School. When Rosemarie saw the Capitol building for the first time, her jaw dropped in amazement and was so excited to be going onto the hill. When we were in our meetings, although all four of us were discussing Unified Champion Schools and health, each of us had a unique story. My story was about my experience so far as a youth leader, as well as my time being a SONJ athlete. I talked about what I’ve learned, the experiences I’ve had, and even becoming a Health Ambassador. Without Special Olympics, I would be the same girl I was years ago – shy and not really able to make friends. These experiences have helped me gain a voice and to talk about something I’m proud to be a part of.
Rosemarie’s story was about her prescription swimming goggles and how they were a life-saver for her. It started out as a normal swim practice until a fire alarm went off. She was scared and her dad tried to take her outside. However, when she put on her goggles, she was able to see everything clearly and started feeling better. Without the CDC funding SONJ received, Rosemarie would have not been able to get those goggles that now help her swim.
This year, Hill Day was a success and it was amazing to meet everyone. No matter who it was, we all felt like our voices were being heard and everyone who was listening cared about our thoughts and comments and are proud to be supporting Special Olympics. By going to the hill and representing SONJ, it gives me the ability to represent something that I’m proud to be a part of. Not only am I representing SONJ athletes, but also representing a part of the unify movement across the United States. I’m able to talk about what Unify is doing for schools across the state and how they’re helping students at school. I’m also able to discuss how healthy athletes and CDC funds help SONJ athletes get the proper health care they need.
Finally, I would like to end this by saying thank you to Special Olympics New Jersey for allowing Rosemarie, Trevor, Louis, and me to go to Hill Day and advocate for SONJ. I would also like to thank the staff members, Senator Menendez, Senator Booker, and all the Congressmen for their continued support towards Special Olympics New Jersey. Again, this is another great trip in the books.”
Trevor & Louis on their thoughts about Hill Day, written by Trevor
“My partner and I, Louis Cavana, had a great time at Hill Day 2020. This was Louis’ third year in a row and my second year in a row. For me, the best part besides advocating for Special Olympics New Jersey, was seeing how much Louis has grown in just a year. Last year, we went in with a script of what to say. This year, Louis went in and talked from his heart. He told his story. Watching him tell his story and how sincere he was when talking was special to me. He didn’t need help from anyone. He told the Senators and Congressmen what Unify means and how it changed his life for the better.
Louis and I both really enjoyed our time at Hill Day. Advocating for Special Olympics and the Play Unify movement is something Louis and I live for. It means the world to us because we have established an everlasting friendship, and no one can break that bond! We will not stop advocating!”
Additional thoughts from Louis
“I really enjoyed seeing people from around the United States and advocating for the Play Unify movement. It felt really good to just share my story. I really love this movement.”
Rosemarie on her thoughts about Hill Day
“This year was my first Hill Day and I was a little nervous at first. As the time came closer, I got more and more excited. When we got to Capitol Hill, I was amazed. I was really proud of myself for doing this. Thanks to the funding from the federal government and CDC, Special Olympics was able to provide me with prescription swimming goggles. They also provided my brother with prescription sports goggles and regular glasses. They helped a lot, and my brother is a lot happier now that he has glasses.
I was just really grateful for this opportunity to speak for SONJ athletes with intellectual disabilities, share my story of how Special Olympics New Jersey has helped me and my brother, and how to be healthier and better people. I felt honored to represent SONJ because this was a huge opportunity and I got to share it with my friend.”