Yesterday was our school campaign for Spread the Word to End the Word Day. This campaign is made to eliminate the "R" word (retarded) and emphasize using respect instead. Using the "R" word in a derogatory sense in demeaning to those with intellectual disabilities. For our campaign this year, the Best Buddies Club (a club the unites the general student population with those who possess disabilities) received a large grant called Project Unify. The grant money was used to purchase t-shirts, posters, wristbands, and a large banner/pledge for students of the school to sign.
To say the least, the campaign was a huge success. However, I believe it had an even bigger meaning to the school. During our announcements, a movie was shown about focusing on one's abilities instead of disabilities. The movie was heart-wrenching and gave the school a good perspective to look at things from. After the movie was shown, I received numerous comments about how good it was and how it truly changed the way people viewed things that happen in our school. After the movie played, one of the Buddies (student with intellectual disabilities) went on the announcements to share how important the Buddies find it to show respect and not treat them differently. Before he went on, he was so nervous. Being someone who messes up on announcements and goes on almost daily, it was hard to see. I believed in him and I knew he could do it. Sure enough, even though he stumbled a bit, he got through everything.
An even cooler sight was seeing people sign the banner and pledge to not use the "R" word. We made cookies hoping that when people signed it they would get a cookie in return and therefore more people would sign it. Standing by the banner and watching students sign it, I realized most of my fellow colleagues were signing the pledge because they believed in the cause. Some didn't even want a cookie. Wristbands were handed out also, and many people wanted those, to share the word with others and try to promote unity and acceptance. In total 567 people signed the pledge. The event was truly inspirational.
A type of euphoria sweeps over me when the Buddies are so excited and happy people care about them. Their smiles and laughter make me feel like I'm some super star making their life better, when really we are all just friends. More so, the Buddies are impacting my life. There have been a lot of new and different perspectives they have forced me to see the world in. Watching them interact and get along while some of them lack the basic capabilities I take for granted daily is just amazing. My life has further been enriched by the children I interact with that possess intellectual disabilities. I encourage you to meet people like the Buddies – they truly are great!
If you would like to take the pledge against the "R" word you can visit - http://www.r-word.org/