Posted Mar 3 2010 12:18AM
On Wednesday, thousands of Special Olympics athletes, Best Buddies participants and their supporters across the United States -- many of whom are students -- will participate in events to highlight the Special Olympics "Spread the Word to End the Word" campaign, designed to challenge and educate people about the hurtful use of the word "retard" and encourage others to think before they speak. Students are leading events in nearly every major city, designed to solicit pledges from people on www.r-word.org not to use the "R-word."
Spread the Word to End the Word began as a grassroots campaign by youth who participated in the Special Olympics Global Youth Activation Summit in February 2009, held in conjunction with the 2009 Special Olympics World Winter Games in Idaho. The campaign was driven by a united passion to promote the positive contributions people with intellectual and developmental disabilities make to communities around the world combined with a simple call to action -- a pledge to stop using the R-word.
Motivated by their commitment to action, actor John C. McGinley from the hit television series Scrubs was inspired to join these youth and their dedication to stop the casual use of the R-word.
"Most people don't think of this word as the language of hate, but that's exactly what it feels like to millions of people with intellectual disabilities, their families and friends," said McGinley. "I choose to believe that most of us are fundamentally good and that we're just not aware that the word is offensive and that it hurts."
Best Buddies also participated in the campaign during its inaugural year and officially signed on as a partner with Special Olympics for this year's campaign.
Soeren Palumbo (co-student founder of 'Spread the Word', Notre Dame, 2011) and "Timbo" Shriver (son of Special Olympics Chairman Timothy Shriver), who together launched the Spread the Word campaign last year, said: "This campaign powerfully combines two things: the creative vision of a world accepting of all people and a youthful drive to realize this vision. It calls people to do more than volunteer and advocate; it inspires them to join, drive, and lead a social movement for the dignity of people with intellectual disabilities. And that's why it works."
Throughout the day, people will be asked to take the pledge online at www.r-word.org, or by signing a banner or pledge sheet at a local event. Tallies of pledges from each event will be available later in the week, as supporters strive to reach 100,000 pledges.
In addition, several members of the Special Olympics community are supporting this event. Included on that list:
• Timothy Shriver, chairman and CEO Special Olympics
• Anthony Shriver, founder and chairman, Best Buddies International
• Loretta Claiborne, Special Olympics athlete and motivational speaker
• Nancy O'Dell, TV journalist and Best Buddies International Board Member
• Maureen McCormick, actress and long-time Best Buddies supporter
• Eric Matthes, Best Buddies International Board Member and Buddy Ambassador (self-advocate and motivational speaker).
The NBA and the Special Olympics have a long-standing relationship, with several past and current players lending their time and efforts to various Special Olympics causes.
Details on the more than 500 local events happening across the country as part of the "Spread the Word to End the Word" campaign can be found at the campaign website.
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