Special Olympics and Best Buddies Celebrate 6th Annual Spread the Word to End the Word@ Day on March 5th

By The Associated Press | Posted - Mar. 5, 2014 at 7:41 a.m.



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TO HEALTH, NATIONAL, AND SPORTS EDITORS:

Special Olympics and Best Buddies Celebrate 6th Annual Spread the Word

to End the Word@ Day on March 5th

WASHINGTON, March 5, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Special Olympics,

Best Buddies, and supporters from around the world will unite today on

the sixth Spread the Word to End the Word@ day to continue building

awareness for society to stop and think about its use of the R-word

and rally people around the world to pledge respect toward all

individuals, making the world a more accepting and inclusive place for

all people, especially those with intellectual and developmental

disabilities (IDD). Through engagement with schools, organizations and

communities, Spread the Word to End the Word highlights the harmful

effects the word "retard(ed)" has on the millions of people with IDD,

their families and friends. Use of the R-word, "retard" or

"retarded," is hurtful and painful and, whether intended or not, is a

form of bullying. Eliminating the use of this word is a step toward

respect.

The Spread the Word to End the Word grassroots campaign was created in

February 2009 by youth who participated in the Special Olympics Global

Youth Activation Summit, held in conjunction with the Special Olympics

World Winter Games in Idaho. Led by Soeren Palumbo and Timbo Shriver

(son of Special Olympics Chairman Timothy Shriver), the campaign

evolved out of a united passion to promote the positive contributions

people with IDD make in communities around the world. It was combined

with a simple call to action to take the pledge and inspired thousands

of K-12 schools and universities across the country to hold rallies

enlisting young people to take the pledge. To date, nearly 500,000

people have taken the pledge online to end the use of the R-word and

millions more have signed banners and petitions throughout the world.

"We've had noticeable and sustainable impact, but these changes have

not come easily, and six years ago, we were met with stiff opposition

online and were repeatedly told that our efforts were a violation of

free speech and that changing language was a 'waste of time,'" said

Soeren Palumbo, co-founder of the Spread the Word to End the Word

campaign. "Change is about more than words. Change is about words

and more. The words we use serve as filters that distort our

understanding of ourselves and those around us. And when we remove

filters tinted with years of stigma and prejudice, then we can begin

to see each other's humanity a bit more clearly, and begin to act

accordingly."

What started as one single action of taking the pledge has evolved

into communities across the world challenging others to talk, think

and write with respect. A letter-writing campaign and social media

blitz led by the Special Olympics Youth Activation Summit drew more

attention to the campaign - as well as an apology - on American

television host and political commentator Bill O'Reilly's show after

the R-word was used. Most recently, Special Olympics athlete John

Franklin Stephens led the charge via a blog post that went viral when

pundit Ann Coulter lashed out with the word. Stephens received

support from over 3 million people through social media in just a

matter of days. Supporters from across the country were urging

Stephens to 'run for President!' The F/X network now includes the

R-word as one of three words that are not allowed to be broadcast.

MTV has also embraced the campaign by bleeping out the R-word just

like any other curse word or slur in shows like "The Real World" and

"Teen Mom." In 2010, a Maryland woman with an intellectual

disability was the inspiration for Rosa's Law. The bill, championed

by Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) and Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyom.),

garnered overwhelming support in both the House of Representatives and

the Senate. Starting that year, federal agencies dropped the terms

"mental retardation" and "mentally retarded" in federal health,

education and labor laws and replaced them with "intellectual

disability" -- and since then, almost every state has passed similar

legislation. Through these and other important milestones, Spread the

Word to End the Word has continued to advocate on behalf of those with

intellectual and developmental disabilities and to work to make our

society more inclusive.

Youth leadership and athlete advocacy has played a large role in the

history of the campaign and continues to build awareness for Spread

the Word to End the Word. Special Olympics Project UNIFY@, in large

part supported by funding from the U.S. Department of Education, is an

education-based project that uses sports and education programs to

activate young people to develop school communities where all youth

are agents of change - fostering respect, dignity and advocacy for

people with intellectual disabilities. Project UNIFY is already in

over 2,100 schools in 42 states across the country and many of those

schools support Spread the Word to End the Word efforts. Best Buddies

International youth programs promote one-to-one friendship

opportunities and leadership development in schools around the world,

raising awareness and acceptance for people with IDD in their

communities. With over 1,700 middle school, high school, and college

chapters worldwide, the Spread the Word to End the Word campaign has

become an integral part of the Best Buddies mission and showcases Best

Buddies' commitment to creating inclusive opportunities for people

with IDD on a global level. The Spread the Word to End the Word

campaign urges young people around the world to take a stand in their

own communities and help change the conversation by eliminating the

use of the R-word from today's popular youth vernacular and replacing

it with "respect." Up to three percent of the world's population

(roughly 200 million people around the world) have an intellectual

disability and youth initiatives like Special Olympics Project UNIFY@

bring youth with and without intellectual disabilities together to

change attitudes and reverse the destructive stigma against those with

IDD.

"When Soeren and I started the campaign six years ago, we believed

that we could show our friends and fellow students the devastating

impact one word in particular could have on an individual and truly

believed that recognizing the power of words to harm would inspire

young people to do the opposite - to use their words to change the

hearts, minds and actions of their own communities for the better,"

said Timbo Shriver, co-founder of the Spread the Word to End the Word

campaign. "Finally, we believed that young people -- empowered by a

movement of their peers -- could change how we see and treat

individuals with disabilities with their words, and then more. We

have accomplished that goal but want more. Today, we ask that you

help us change our words, and then more. Start by visiting r-word.org

and take the pledge today."

Get Involved!

Engage with us on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/EndtheWord or

Twitter at http://twitter.com/EndtheWord, so that we can reach our

goal of gaining 50,000 tweets/re-tweets of the pledge in this year

alone! Tweet this pledge today:

I pledge #Respect thru my words and actions. Will you? Pledge now to

create communities of inclusion for people with ID r-word.org

About Special Olympics International Special Olympics is an

international organization that changes lives through the power of

sport by encouraging and empowering people with intellectual

disabilities, promoting acceptance for all, and fostering communities

of understanding and respect worldwide. Founded in 1968 by Eunice

Kennedy Shriver, the Special Olympics movement has grown from a few

hundred athletes to more than 4 million athletes in 170 countries in

all regions of the world, providing year-round sports training,

athletic competition and other related programs. Special Olympics now

takes place every day, changing the lives of people with intellectual

disabilities all over the world, from community playgrounds and ball

fields in every small neighborhood's backyard to World Games. Special

Olympics provides people with intellectual disabilities continuing

opportunities to realize their potential, develop physical fitness,

demonstrate courage, and experience joy and friendship. Visit Special

Olympics at www.specialolympics.org. Engage with us on: Twitter

@specialolympics; fb.com/specialolympics;

youtube.com/specialolympicshq, and specialolympicsblog.wordpress.com.

About Best Buddies International Best Buddies@ is a nonprofit

501(c)(3) organization dedicated to establishing a global volunteer

movement that creates opportunities for one-to-one friendships,

integrated employment and leadership development for people with

intellectual and developmental disabilities. Founded in 1989 by

Anthony K. Shriver, Best Buddies is a vibrant organization that has

grown from one original chapter to more than 1,700 middle school, high

school, and college chapters worldwide. Today, Best Buddies' eight

formal programs - Middle Schools, High Schools, Colleges, Citizens,

e-Buddies@ , Jobs, Ambassadors, and Promoters - engage participants in

each of the 50 states and in over 50 countries, positively impacting

the lives of more than 800,000 people with and without disabilities

around the world. In many cases, as a result of their involvement with

Best Buddies, people with intellectual and developmental disabilities

secure rewarding jobs, live on their own, become inspirational

leaders, and make lifelong friendships. For more information, please

visit www.bestbuddies.org, facebook.com/bestbuddies or

twitter.com/bestbuddies.

SOURCE Special Olympics

-0- 03/05/2014

/CONTACT: Christy White, Special Olympics, +1 (202) 738-8511, cwhite@specialolympics.org, or Heather Schatz, Best Buddies International, +1 (305) 374-2233 ext. 207, heatherschatz@bestbuddies.org

/Web Site: http://www.specialolympics.org

http://www.r-word.org

http://www.bestbuddies.org

CO: Special Olympics; Best Buddies International

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0000 03/05/2014 14:38:00 EDT http://www.prnewswire.com

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The Associated Press

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