Central New York, Sports

CNY Special Olympics Athlete is First Registered Lobbyist with Down Syndrome

Kayla McKeon competes in the Special Olympics and is the first Capitol Hill lobbyist with Down Syndrome.

By Brooke Meenachan SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCC News) – Kayla McKeon has been participating in the Special Olympics for 14 years, competing in bowling, floor hockey, softball and many other events.

“It’s a way of keeping us physically fit and having fun with playing a sport,” McKeon said. “This is where we make our lifelong friendships, in Special Olympics.”

The 30-year-old North Syracuse resident took home a silver and bronze medal in the Special Olympics World Games in Greece in 2011.

As a Special Olympics ambassador, McKeon has been giving speeches on behalf of the organization since she was 18.

She has a passion for public speaking, which is what led her to becoming the first registered Capitol Hill lobbyist with Down syndrome.

“Wow, I’m that person?,” McKeon said. “I get to go make a difference? I am making history.”

McKeon began working for the National Down Syndrome Society, advocating for laws that protect the lives of disabled people. Her job has led her to meetings with lawmakers such as House Speaker Paul Ryan, plus, interning for Congressman John Katko.

“I just love talking to the congressmen and women and senators about our personal stories because when they talk to a self-advocate, it’s hard to say ‘no’,” she said.

And whether she’s talking to lawmakers on Capitol Hill or giving speeches for the Special Olympics, her message remains the same:

“We wanted to be treated just like you,” McKeon said. “Yes, I have Down syndrome. I wouldn’t change that for one minute. I love having Down Syndrome. It makes me proud.”