Spread the Word Campaign growing

DOVER — Special Olympics Delaware is preparing to spread the R-word on Wednesday with students in all levels at schools across the state on Wednesday — Respect.

“The day is an opportunity for students in schools to rally behind the premise that respecting and including individuals of all abilities and backgrounds should remain at the forefront of every action and decision they make on a daily basis,” said Jon Buzby, Special Olympics Delaware director of Unified Champion Schools.

“Fortunately, nowadays the majority of students already respect all of their peers, but the activities on this one day just reinforces for everyone the importance of treating everyone with respect and the inclusion of all members in school activities and in the local communities.”

The Spread the Word Campaign has grown immensely over the past 11 years from an initiative in a few dozen schools through the grassroots work of Special Olympics programs, youth leaders and self-advocates, to what Mr. Buzby said is “one of our most widely used tools for Special Olympics school engagement, currently involving more than 7,000 Unified Champion Schools in the United States.

The “Spread the Word” Campaign has now shifted from a singular focus on the R-word (retarded) to one focused on broader issues of social respect and inclusion, especially given that in some settings the most urgent action needed for social respect and inclusion is to end the R-word, but in others it may be something else.

On Wednesday, youth in all 50 states will coordinate simultaneous pledge drives, campaigns and educational activities through the “Spread the Word — Respect” campaign.

In Delaware, more than 170 preschools, elementary, middle and high schools, along with the University of Delaware and the Delaware Tech Owens and Terry campuses, will be participating in the campaign through an array of activities promoting respect and inclusion, which might include:

1) Providing general information about the campaign in morning announcements.

2) Conducting assemblies focused on respect and inclusion.

3) Leading weeklong fun, interactive activities to promote respect and inclusion.

4) Signing a pledge banner at their school to promote respect and inclusion.

5) Wearing this year’s official Spread the Word shirt (a record more than 15,000 sold)

6) Raising awareness about the Special Olympics Delaware program.