Miss Phillips Goes to Washington

By on February 22, 2017
Chloe Phillips heads toward the U.S. Capitol to participate in the 15th annual Special Olympics Capitol Hill Day. (Photos by Anne Phillips)

Chloe Phillips heads toward the U.S. Capitol to participate in the 15th annual Special Olympics Capitol Hill Day. (Photos by Anne Phillips)

Manheim’s Chloe Phillips had a two-day whirlwind visit to Washington, D.C., starting Wednesday, Feb. 15. The Special Olympics athlete visited Capitol Hill during Special Olympics 15th annual Capitol Hill Day.

She was one of over 40 Special Olympics athletes from across the country participating in the event and was selected to represent the state by Special Olympics Pennsylvania. In meetings with legislators, including Congressman Lloyd Smucker and Senator Bob Casey, she lobbied the federal government to sustain its annual $4.5 million funding for Special Olympics’ health program and $10 million funding for the organization’s unified sports program.

During a launch event, she met Timothy Shriver, chairman of Special Olympics, and heard from U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.

“No one can better articulate a vision for how America can become a more inclusive nation or demonstrate what it means to unite and come together than the athletes and Unified Partners of Special Olympics,” Shriver said, “We support the preservation of laws that guarantee the rights and full participation and integration of people with intellectual disabilities into our society.”

Secretary DeVos told attendees, “I am proud to stand beside you as a partner in support of Special Olympics and its Unified Champion Schools, an important program that promotes leadership and empowers students to be agents of change.”

Phillips definitely fits that bill.

Chloe Phillips met Tim Shriver, chairman of Special Olympics, and U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos during a launch event for Special Olympics Capitol Hill Day.

Chloe Phillips met Tim Shriver, chairman of Special Olympics, and U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos during a launch event for Special Olympics Capitol Hill Day.

Born with Down Syndrome, the 18-year-old Manheim Central grad hasn’t let that define her. She’s currently involved in a work-study program with the VA Hospital in Lebanon. She was selected as Manheim Central’s 2015 Homecoming Queen, and serves as a global ambassador for Special Olympics Pennsylvania. As a member of the Special Olympics Lancaster County swim team, she’s medaled in several events at the Special Olympics Summer Games, capturing her first gold medals in June 2011. She was also a member of Manheim Central’s Marching Barons and the high school’s swim team.

“Being part of Capital Hill Day was a great, but exhausting experience,” she said. “It was great to see how government works. I not only shared my passion about Special Olympics, but by giving up my lunch hour I managed to fit in a tour of the Capitol.”

Interacting with other Special Olympics athletes was one of her favorite things. Her least favorite: wearing heels all day — something that many women can empathize with.

As a Special Olympics athlete, she said that the unified sports program is dear to her heart.

Anne Phillips, who is not only Chloe’s mom, but also is a volunteer on Special Olympics Lancaster County’s management team and swim coach, explained that the unified sports program brings people with and without intellectual disabilities together on the same team to compete.

She said that Pennsylvania currently has 90 schools involved in unified track and bocce programs, but none are in Lancaster County. She is hoping that in the 2018-19 school year, four schools in the county may participate in the program.

She explained that the program helps students better accept one another; reducing bullying and stereotyping. It teaches leadership skills to typical students that organize the teams. Chloe added that it gives those with a physical or intellectual disability an equal playing field to be competitive.

Chloe Phillips is also taking on a new role through Special Olympics Pennsylvania — health and fitness coordinator, in which she will encourage fellow athletes to lead a healthy lifestyle. Since obesity numbers are high in the special needs community, she hopes to encourage athletes to stay active — exercising even if it’s not an athlete’s sport season; and to make healthy food choices.

She pointed out that Special Olympics PA is actively working on educating athletes not only by having health screenings during the Fall, Winter and Summer Games, but by educating all athletes.

“Only a small percentage of athletes get to attend the State games, and we want every special needs athlete to be as fit as possible,” Phillips said.

Rochelle Shenk is a correspondent for the Lititz Record Express. She welcomes your comments and questions at RAASHENK@aol.com.

Chloe Phillips met with Congressman Lloyd Smucker during Capitol Hill Day

Chloe Phillips met with Congressman Lloyd Smucker during Capitol Hill Day

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