Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Be a Fan of Special Olympics Georgia athletes and join the Spread the Word to End the Word campaign

/PRNewswire / -- Special Olympics Georgia announced a new youth-lead effort - Spread the Word to End the Word - 3.31.09, encouraging people to pledge to stop using the derogatory word "retard."

Tuesday, March 31 will be devoted to educating and raising awareness about individuals with intellectual disabilities and the offensive use of the "R-word" in casual conversation all across the country. Spread the Word to End the Word is a collaborative promotion engaging Special Olympics leaders, celebrities, opinion leaders and the media.

In Georgia, radio ads discouraging the use of the "R-word" featuring Atlanta Hawks forward Marvin Williams have played on stations in metro Atlanta throughout the year leading up to today. Williams has also appeared in print ads and in radio interviews saying "I don't use the R-word." In addition, Facebook users are encouraged to update their status to "I don't use the R-word. Visit www.r-word.org."

Actor John C. McGinley, who plays Dr. Cox on the television show "Scrubs," and Ambassador of the National Down Syndrome Society, pledged his support for Spread the Word to End the Word after meeting with more than 130 young adults during a Special Olympics Global Youth Activation Summit in February held in conjunction with the 2009 Special Olympics World Winter Games.

"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, who has a son, Max, with Down Syndrome. McGinley has also appeared on The Bonnie Hunt Show and TV Guide Network promoting this endeavor.

McGinley added, "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."

McGinley and young people want to change casual conversation and help eliminate the demeaning use of the R-word from today's popular youth vernacular and replace it with a different r-word - "respect." Across the country, students and schools across the country will unite to challenge everyone to think before they speak.

A week of campaigning will include posters and word-of-mouth encouraging everyone to pledge to stop the use of the word at www.r-word.org. Youth have set a goal to garner 100,000 online pledges through this campaign.

Special Olympics, Inc. launched its activities and Web site www.r-word.org to eliminate the demeaning use of the R-word in today's society in August 2008 when the film "Tropic Thunder" hit theatres. Special Olympics, along with a coalition of 17 disability organizations throughout the country including National Down Syndrome Society, American Association of People with Disabilities, The Arc of the United States and Best Buddies spoke out against the film, which featured the prominent use of the R-word.

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