‘Despicable’: Special needs community denounces DeVos' Special Olympics cuts

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SOMERVILLE -

The special needs community is voicing their displeasure about Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ recent announcement to cut funding to the Special Olympics program as part of the federal budget.

“To take $17 million away from kids with special needs is just – I find it disheartening and despicable, frankly,” says Somerville resident Ken Doyle.

Doyle and his daughter Lily are part of the New Jersey chapter of the Special Olympics. Doyle coaches his daughter on the golf team.

“I love doing golf and I love having my dad do it with me,” Lily says.

The national chapter of the Special Olympics is at risk of losing crucial funding, which could trickle down to the local level.

“It’s going to hurt a lot of families,” Doyle says.

RELATED: Education Secretary Betsy DeVos defends plan to eliminate Special Olympics funding 

DeVos’ announcement that nearly $18 million would be cut from Special Olympics was met with harsh criticism from the public and lawmakers.

“Do you know how many kids are going to be affected by that cut, Madame Secretary?” asked Wisconsin Democratic Rep. Mark Pocan.

DeVos replied, “Mr. Pocan, let me just say again, we had to make some difficult decisions with this budget.”

When Pocan asked DeVos again how many children were going to be affected, she answered that she did not know. “It’s 272,000 kids,” Pocan told her.

Some of those children will be Lily Doyle and her friends.

"In this day and age when there's so much division in the country, I think it's hugely important to show that these kids are just like everybody else,” Ken Doyle says. “They belong there, part of a community. They need to be a part of our community and they need to be supported."

Doyle says he hopes action is taken to prevent the funding cuts from going through so more kids can experience the Special Olympics.

News 12 New Jersey reached out to the New Jersey chapter of the organization – but a spokesperson declined to comment and says that they were waiting on direction from the national chapter of the Special Olympics.

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