May 9, 2008
WASHINGTON, D.C. – President George W. Bush announced today the appointment of Notre Dame head football coach Charlie Weis to The President’s Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities. Weis was one of 13 individuals appointed to the Committee and begins his two-year term May 12, 2008.
The President’s Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities, formerly The President’s Committee on Mental Retardation, is a federal advisory committee, established by Presidential Executive Order to advise the President of the United States and the Secretary of The Department of Health and Human Services on issues concerning citizens with intellectual disabilities, coordinate activities between different federal agencies and assess the impact of their policies upon the lives of citizens with intellectual disabilities and their families.
“I’m honored to have been appointed a member of the President’s Committee. On behalf of my wife Maura, our son Charlie and daughter Hannah, who is globally developmentally delayed, I look forward to using my voice to help raise awareness and doing some good for individuals with special needs that may not have that ability to do so on their own. I’m very appreciative to President Bush for this appointment and am excited about the opportunity.”
In 2003, Charlie and Maura established the Hannah & Friends Foundation, dedicated to children affected by developmental disorders. The foundation funds Hannah’s Helping Hands, which provides quality of life grants to families in Indiana and Rhode Island that care for children and adults with special needs. The Weis family, through Hannah and Friends, also has purchased 30 acres of land in the South Bend area and is in the process of building a farm and residential center for special needs adults age 18 and older.
“I remember scanning through Miles from the Sideline (a book by Maura Weis on raising their special needs daughter) at an Autism conference while I was waiting to speak and ended up buying a few copies to give to friends,” said Steve Rhatigan, Chair of The President’s Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities. “It is such a moving tribute to Charlie and Maura Weis as caregivers’ and to Hannah, their uniquely abled daughter. Now, to know that I will be able to work side by side with Coach Weis on The President’s Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities gives me great optimism about the goals we will achieve in the coming years.”
It is estimated that between seven and eight million Americans of all ages, or three percent of the general population, experience intellectual disabilities. Nearly 30 million, or one in ten families in the United States, are directly affected by a person with intellectual disabilities at some point in their lifetime. Intellectual disabilities present a major challenge to the social, educational, health, and economic systems within the United States.
The President’s Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities was first established in 1966 by Executive Order to focus on this critical subject of national concern. Since 1966, the Committee has fostered State planning, stimulated development of strategies, policies and programs and advanced the concept of community participation in the field of intellectual disabilities. To continue to best fulfill its purpose, the President has adopted several national goals in order to better recognize and uphold the right of all people with intellectual disabilities to enjoy a quality of life that promotes independence, self-determination, and participation as productive members of society. These goals include the assurance of full citizenship rights of people with intellectual disabilities, the provision of all necessary supports to individuals and families, the reduction of the occurrence and severity of intellectual disabilities and the promotion of the widest dissemination of information of models, programs, and services within the field of intellectual disabilities.
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