Spreading the Word

Special Olympics, Ending the R-word, Getting Involved

Thank You, Mom

Maria Shriver was a special guest on the Today Show this morning and talked about Expressing Motherhood, the documentary style play performed by mothers who get up on stage and share their stories.

One of the mothers said Expressing Motherhood is so great because it lets other moms out there know that they are not alone and that there is someone out there who is going through the same thing.

“It’s comforting to know that they are out there to share their stories and to help us,” said one woman who became involved in the cast after seeing a performance.

Maria Shriver has recently teamed up with the company P&G to help promote their campaign, Thank You, Mom. Maria’s mother, Eunice founded Special Olympics in the 1960’s. Her sister, Rosemary, had an intellectual disability and she  began to notice that people like Rosemary were treated differently than the other kids.

Eunice started Camp Shriver in her own backyard in 1962 and Special Olympics not long after. She realized that struggle that moms of children with disabilities went through and wanted to help. Eunice’s vision was to create a place where people with intellectual disabilities were not treated differently and she saw sports as the perfect opportunity.

Sports are something that everyone can enjoy and Special Olympics strives to make this inclusion a reality.

P&G’s Thank You, Mom campaign is dedicated to Maria and Eunice. In an effort to support Moms like Eunice, P&G made a video called “The Gift My Mother Gave Me” and for every share that the video gets on Facebook, P&G will donate $1 to Special Olympics.

Check out this inspirational video about a dedicated mom who helped support all moms in her fight for inclusion.

“The gift my mother gave me was he gift of possibility.”

                                                                                                        -Maria Shriver

To share this video and help support Special Olympics, visit P&G’s Thank You, Mom Facebook page.

Check out the Special Olympics blog post here.

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Kamisha’s perspective on the R-word

Remember how I told you that I still keep in touch with many of the people I have met in the Special Education classes at Malden High. Well, Kamisha is one of them. She is one of my good friends and we keep in touch throughout the year through Facebook and some texting.

Kamisha is probably one of the sweetest people I have ever met. She is motivated and kind and is always willing to lend a hand. Kamisha works in a number of offices in the school. She helps out in the athletic office and gets mail for teachers, files papers when needed in the main office and she is the manager for the Varsity Girls’ Basketball team.

She is fearless and knows that even though she may have to overcome more obstacles than the rest of us – there is nothing she can’t do if she puts her mind to it.

I told Kamisha about my blog and she was so excited! She immediately offered to help me in any way that she could. I told her that I was going to write some posts about the R-word and asked her to make a video for me about how the R-word makes her feel.

I hope that after hearing how the R-word affects Kamisha, those of you who use the word will stop and those of you who don’t will help Spread the Word to End the Word.

Kamisha from Cristina Valente on Vimeo.

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Spread the Word to End the Word Awareness

This year, I put a lot of time and effort into bringing the Spread the Word to End the Word campaign to Framingham State because I am very passionate about the issue. Unfortunately, due to some unforeseen circumstances, the event could not happen this year – but mark my words, it WILL be here next year!

Spread the Word to End the Word is a national campaign in partnership with Special Olympics and Best Buddies. Its mission is to make people aware of the many negative connotations that come with saying the word “Retard” or “Retarded.”

Every time I hear someone say it I want to correct them and most of the time I do. However, if I don’t really know the person, it makes it a little more difficult. Ryan has a sister who was born with a form of Turner’s Syndrome and he takes great offense to the R-word out of respect for his sister.

“Just about every time I hear someone say it, I immediately correct them. There are times when I will let it pass because I don’t feel like dealing with the questions and statements that are inevitably going to follow,” said Ryan.

Like most of us, Ryan has encountered people who just don’t understand. They will say things like, “I didn’t mean it like that” or “you have no reason to be offended.” One way to deal with this is just walk away and say, “I tried” or you can handle it they way Ryan does when he says, “my sister hates the word, and takes offense to it.” Once people realize that you have friends or family members with an intellectual disability, they are more likely to respect you not wanting that word to be used.

Although we would love to completely eliminate the use of the R-word, some people just aren’t willing to give it up. But it is not impossible. When I was a freshman in college and was meeting my roommate for the first time we were just getting to know each other and talking about what we like to do. I mentioned I was a huge advocate for Special Olympics and that my biggest pet peeve was when people say the R-word. I told her why I and so many other people take offense to it and she said, “I never thought of it that way, I use it sometimes but I’m going to stop. If you catch me saying it, just remind me.”

That’s what I did for the first few weeks of school. Every time she said “That’s retarded” I would remind her and said “Find another word.” It took some time but now she is even telling people not to use the R-word. Making a difference is not impossible. It just takes a little bit of time.

When people say the R-word, they are essentially referring to something that is unattractive or unacceptable. People with intellectual disabilities take great offense to this. “My sister is is easily the hardest working person I have ever met, and the word “retarded” or “retard” is almost always associated with doing something stupid or saying something stupid. I’ve seen how it directly affects my sister,” said Ryan.

I have a friend named Kamisha. She has cerebral palsy. But she does not let that stop her. She is one of the most well known girls at Malden High School. She helps out in almost every office in the school, manages the Varsity Girls’ Basketball team and is easily the friendliest person in the school.

A few years ago, during my senior year, we had a Spread the Word to End the Word rally. Most people are afraid to speak in front of a large group of people but not Kamisha. She wrote her own speech, got up on stage in front of 75-100 people and spoke about how the R-word personally affects her. She said it makes her feel unimportant and unintelligent. It makes her feel beneath everyone else and everyone who knows her, knows for a fact that this is not true. However, these are the negative associations that come with the R-word. People need to educate themselves about the use of the R-word and realize that it is hurtful and shouldn’t be said.

“It is not socially acceptable to go around saying the N word or using any other racial term, therefore I think it should be the same with the R word. They are all extremely offensive,” said Ryan.

It’s great to know that there are people out there like Ryan who advocate against the R-word. Another person who is involved in Special Olympics and the R-word campaign is Alyssa. Alyssa has been one of the track directors at the FSU Special Olympics for the past 2 years, she has helped me with the Spread the Word campaign at FSU and has also made Spread the Word to End the Word buttons to raise money for Special Olympics.

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Spread the Word 2013 Buttons

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Banner signed by FSU students for Spread the Word 2012

I sat down with Alyssa and we talked about the R-word campaign and how she is involved. Listen to our conversation below!

The world needs more people like Ryan and Alyssa. But if we all work together and don’t give up, we can make a difference!

<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/65313070″>socialmediaproject2</a&gt; from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/user17824671″>Cristina Valente</a> on <a href=”http://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

To pledge to stop using the R-word and to learn more about the campaign, visit www.r-word.org. TAKE THE PLEDGE TODAY AND SPREAD THE WORD!

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URI Hosts 6th Annual Autism Awareness Day

This past Saturday, April 20th, the University of Rhode Island hosted their 6th Annual Autism Awareness Day during a double header against Temple University.

This year, URI’s Run the Bases for Autism sponsored Joey’s Fund as part of the Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation for Autism. Joey’s Fund is set up in memory of Josephine Grace Gay, a 7 year old who was tragically killed in the Sandy Hook shootings earlier this year. Joey was autistic and severely apraxic, meaning she could not speak. But, according to friends, family and people who knew her – that didn’t matter. Joey touched the lives of so many people. She was a warm hearted girl with a wonderful sense of humor and loved playing with her sisters.

This year, URI supported Joey’s Fund. Admission to the game was free and kids could participate in a number of games and activities before and during the game. There was a bouncy house, face painting, wiffleball, kickball and so much more. After the game, kids had the chance to run the bases with the URI baseball players. There were raffles and silent auctions that all helped raise money for Joey’s Fund.

Video Credit: RhodeIslandRams

It looked like such a fun day for everyone involved and I’m sure Joey would have loved it!

On another good note – the URI Rams defeated Temple University 3-1.

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SPOTLIGHT: Kenneth Faried

Denver Nuggets forward Kenneth Faried was just recently awarded the “Kia Community Assist Award” for Februray. He supports acceptance and inclusion in many ways. This year, he was an honorary coach at the 2013 NBA Cares Special Olympics Unified Sports Basketball Game in Houston.

Kenneth Faried is the recipient of the Kia Community Assist Award for his outstanding community efforts to promote acceptance and inclusion. Photo Credit: nba.com

Faried is extending his efforts by participating in the Denver Nuggets Special Olympics clinic where 125 Special Olympics Colorado athletes will participate.

By winning this award, Kia and the NBA will donate $10,000 in Faried’s name to the Lupus Colorado fund and Special Olympics Colorado Project UNIFY.

Great Job Kenneth! This is awesome, keep up the good work!

For more information about Kenneth Faried’s outreach and inclusion efforts go to www.nba.com.

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