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Reaction to Proposed Special Olympics Cuts

LOCK HAVEN, Pa. — Nearly 150 people attend programs at Clinton County Community Connections. It’s a day program for people with intellectual and phy...

LOCK HAVEN, Pa. -- Nearly 150 people attend programs at Clinton County Community Connections. It's a day program for people with intellectual and physical disabilities. Many of the people here are involved in the Special Olympics.

"I've been winning so many gold medals, and I have a whole bunch of trophies," Seneca Peterson said.

Some athletes from this area recently competed in the Special Olympic World Games in Dubai and won gold medals.

"Oh, it's terrific. I have seen athletes grow so much," Larry Rupert said.

Rupert is a volunteer with Special Olympics in Clinton County. He got involved 30 years ago when his stepson started playing hockey. Rupert says he was disappointed to find out Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos proposed funding cuts to Special Olympics.

"It would definitely hurt. It would probably take some opportunities away from some of the individuals," Rupert said.

DeVos believes Special Olympics should be supported by philanthropy, and the Department of Education cannot afford to continue to support it.

"Of course, that would filter down through to the state. It probably would make quite a difference in our program," Rupert said.

According to Special Olympics Pennsylvania, the organization wants to expand into more than 400 schools in the next few years. To do that, it needs federal funding.

A spokesperson for Special Olympics Pennsylvania said, "We see this as an opportunity to continue raising awareness among government officials...about the important work that Special Olympics is doing."

As for the athletes we spoke with, they just want to have fun.

"You get to spend time with friends and meet new people, and it's just fun," Kayla Baker said.

"Very fun," Sheena Neff said. "I love to hang out with my friends."