During my time in the U.S. Senate, I’ve had the opportunity to meet people from all walks of life. Recently, I visited with 20-year-old Skylar Simmonds of Millard, Nebraska. Unlike many people her age, Skylar was not visiting the Capitol on a school trip or as a stop on her “must see” list. Instead, she made her way to the Senate as a representative for an organization very dear to her. For the past five years, Skylar has been an active athlete in Special Olympics Nebraska (SONE).

Because of her involvement with this organization, Skylar has learned to push herself, overcome challenges, and succeed. A dedicated athlete with several medals to show for it, Skylar competes in SONE’s swimming and track competitions. The Omaha native is a graduate of SONE’s Athlete Leadership Program, where she developed important skills to help the next generation of Special Olympians succeed and grow.

Every year, I have the privilege of meeting other Special Olympians like Skylar. Connie Kresha of Columbus, Nebraska, visited my office in February of 2015. She discussed the importance of education to the future of SONE’s athletes. In 2014, I spoke with Jason Gieschen of Ogallala. Jason was abused by his biological parents as an infant. Thanks to the love and care of his adoptive parents, he was able to grow and find strength through the Special Olympics. Jason came to shed light on how SONE changed his life and empowered him to help others in difficult circumstances.

Meeting with these Nebraskans serves as a fresh reminder that we should take our challenges one step at a time. They are an inspiration and show the power of hard work and dedication.

Organizations like SONE personify the deep and caring nature of the individuals in our communities. Nebraska’s Special Olympics story started over 40 years ago, with 250 athletes and a vision of fostering sportsmanship and inclusion for young people with disabilities. Today, this organization has grown to include over 5,000 athletes. SONE is now active in over 110 communities in our state, with thousands of participants from Omaha to the panhandle.

Those involved with SONE operate under a basic principle: provide opportunities to those who face difficulties, help them realize their potential, live a healthy lifestyle, and experience the joys of friendship. I am inspired by these athletes. They are tackling life’s challenges and leading by example in their communities. No matter the athlete, no matter the conversation, each one of our Special Olympians is an important ambassador of The Good Life to people all over the world.

The Special Olympics oath says, “If I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.” I see bravery in Skylar, Connie, Jason, and all of our SONE athletes. They strengthen our world through their kind spirits, resilient attitudes, and strong determination. I look forward to meeting many more athletes and volunteers of this remarkable organization for years to come.

Thank you for participating in the democratic process. I look forward to visiting with you again next week.