Students at the University of St. Thomas are launching their own branch of the Special Olympics’ “Spread the Word to End the Word” campaign to stop using the “r-word” (retard or retarded).
A group of students have produced a video about the campaign that will premiere at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 4, in the third-floor lounge (Room 304) of Murray-Herrick Campus Center on the university’s St. Paul campus. The program will include a speaker from Special Olympics and a discussion. All are welcome.
“My little brother Zach’s Down syndrome has impacted me in unspeakable ways,” said Kari Jo Johnson, a St. Thomas senior from Aitkin, Minn., and one of the initiators of the campus campaign. “When I saw the campaign that Special Olympics started, I knew my campus, classmates and peers needed to be informed about how this word could actually be stopped. As a broadcast journalism major, I went outside the classroom to connect my passion for video to my love for my brother to reach as many people as we could.”
The Special Olympics’ website encourages people to make online pledges to stop saying the word and encourage others to stop as well. After a little more than two years, the campaign has received about 100,000 pledges.
St. Thomas students will be at two campus locations today, April 26, through Friday, April 30, to hand out pledge forms for students to fill out. In return, they will receive a free wristband and their picture will go onto a poster symbolizing the number of student pledges.
“When I hear the r-word it makes me cringe because of how meaningful my little brother, Joey, who has Down syndrome, is to me,” said John Busch, a St. Thomas senior from Cottage Grove, Minn., who also helped initiate the campaign. “As a residence-hall adviser, I hear the word on a daily basis and realize how important it is to get students to understand its true meaning.”
Zach Johnson and Joey Busch, brothers of the St. Thomas students organizing the “Spread the Word to End the Word” campaign, are featured in the 3-minute video and will be participating in the May 4 event at St. Thomas.
For more information about the St. Thomas campaign, contact Kari Jo Johnson, (218) 820-5493. More information also is available on the campaign’s Facebook page.