York County Special Olympic Athletes And Parents Worry About Potential Cuts To Program

ROCK HILL, SC -Two world class athletes from York County returned from an international competition this week to news that the programs they’ve benefited from could be cut.

The U.S. Department of Education is suggesting eliminating federal funds for Special Olympics.

“I got a gold in the squat,” said Joshua Myers.

He won four power lifting medals at the Special Olympics World Championships in Abu Dhabi, UAE.

“I feel very proud of myself and I feel like the king of the world,” said Myers.

“Lots of tears and lots of laughter,” said Patti Meyers, Joshua’s mother, “just couldn’t be prouder of my son.”

Pattie Myers traveled with her son and cheered him on during the competition.
“Sometimes I couldn’t even watch. I was like just praying make that lift, make that lift,” said Myers, reliving the moment.

Joshua and his friend Scott Roher, who won bronze in golf, returned to York County for a celebration of their achievements. But some of the programs they love may be in financial trouble.

“It’s easier to keep spending to keep saying yes and to keep saddling tomorrow’s generations with today’s debt,” said Betsy Devos, the head of the U.S. Department of Education.

She says she supports Special Olympics, but says they cannot fund every worthy program. Her budget proposal cuts $17.6 million dollars to Special Olympics or roughly 10% of the organizations operational budget.

“If we lose that kind of funding that’s certainly a significant amount of dollars to us. Do we have to pair things down? Do we have to change the look of it?” said Barry Coates, the the head of Special Olympics South Carolina.

The federal money is used for inclusive programs at Unified Champion Schools.

In North Carolina, the program is in more than 400 schools and receives about $250,000 a year.

In South Carolina, more than 300 schools benefit from about $200,000 in funding.

“It’s not just one little community here or there. It would effect our whole stat,” said Pattie Myers.

She says her son has thrived in the programs and she’s not ready to see it go.

Special Olympics funding is one of the 29 programs up for elimination from the federal budget in 2020.