Spread the Word to End the Word on March 28

Jared portrait

Jared Niemeyer is a SOMO athlete from Kirksville

March is Spread the word to End the R-word campaign month. Our youth are leading the R-word movement to address this issue of social injustice.  They are standing strong and informing others of the significance in not using the R-word.  This movement is encouraging people to make a decision to use respectful language and make a pledge to not use the R-word.  Their goal is to generate respect for all individuals; promoting inclusive communities, inclusive employment and a more inclusive world.  Shouldn’t every encounter be addressed?

We may not find it necessary to take the stand that John Franklin Stephens, Special Olympics athlete and Global Messenger, took in writing an open letter to Ann Coulter due to her use of the word retard following the Presidential debates in November 2012.  However, we are very grateful for John’s courage and his thought-provoking letter.  John’s letter included this comment, “Ms. Coulter, you, and society, need to learn that being compared to people like me should be considered a badge of honor. No one overcomes more than we do and still loves life so much.”

John has said in the past that hearing the word retard “makes him, and others like him, feel wholly excluded.  I want you to know that it hurts to be left out here, alone.  Nothing scares me as much as feeling all alone in a world that moves so much faster than I do.”

With 385,153 pledges to date, our message is growing strong and our voice steady.  Join us by visiting www.r-word.org to make this pledge:

I pledge and support the elimination of the derogatory use of the r-word from everyday speech and promote the acceptance and inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities.

If you’ve made the pledge, step up to the challenge and resolve to add your voice to this movement in order to make a difference!

It only takes one person!  Eunice Kennedy Shriver not only accomplished her dream of promoting dignity through athletic opportunities, but has spread her dream across our world.  You can do the same thing in your family, school, clubs, organizations and community.  You can make all the difference with the people around you.  You can make change but you can also BE the change!

Students in Kirksville pledge to end the use of the r-word

Students in Kirksville pledge to end the use of the r-word

You can do so many things to promote change by being motivated, enthusiastic, encouraging, and energetic.  Be the change in ending the R-word means you explain to others how hurtful the derogatory use of the word retard is to those with intellectual disabilities.  It makes those of us who have an intellectual disability feel inferior, less important, able to do or accomplish less or even unlovable.  It’s important to stop putting others down by saying “retard” or “retarded” as if it’s disgusting or the worst thing possible.  Take a stand – share with your family, friends or others who use those words that it hurts us.  Take a stand to be the change for positive attitudes and changed hearts in your community.  Take a stand to be a strong, positive voice!

Most people don’t seem to understand how saying words can be so hurtful.  When you explain to one person, a friend, a group of people, a club, a class, a school – it spreads!!  Just informing others causes a ripple effect.  You can share with your friends and they can help promote change with you!  If you start a campaign in your school you just have to have a plan that your group of friends and an interested adult can share with your principal or superintendent.  If they are concerned you have to listen to what their concerns may be and adjust your plans if possible to make it doable in your school!  Listen to them and they’ll listen to you.

Special Olympics Chairman Tim Shriver, Jared and Brenda Niemeyer and Senator Roy Blunt

Special Olympics Chairman Tim Shriver, Jared and Brenda Niemeyer and Senator Roy Blunt

Use ideas on the R-word website or in the Project UNIFY manual to make sure your campaign has everything it needs to be the best!  These ideas can help you come up with plans for your group to propose and accomplish.  Stopping the R-word is about respect, dignity, unity, fairness, understanding, inclusion, truth, honor and acceptance.  We can all live together by working together; but we have to be a positive person in our community.  Everybody deserves to be treated with respect.  You might not always understand me or know what I’m talking about, but what I have to share is important.  I want to help make good things happen for the people around me.  I want to help others get through school, get along with others, get a meaningful job, live as independently as they can and give to their community!  One can make HUGE changes for many others.  Be the one working for positive change.  BE THE CHANGE in your community!

Jared Niemeyer is a SOMO athlete who lives in Kirksville. He serves on the national Youth Activation Committee, a group of young people from across the country who work together to promote school communities where all young people are agents of change.

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Local athlete, coach and International Global Messenger Kristina Rhodes to be interviewed on KSHB-TV

On Thursday, November 8, Special Olympics athlete, coach and International Global Messenger Kristina (O’Neal) Rhodes will be interviewed on KSHB-TV. Tune in as she discusses her work with Special Olympics in Missouri and the Send a High Five Campaign, a joint initiative between VSP Vision Care and Special Olympics.

Almost 200 million people have intellectual disabilities, and up to 40 percent of these individuals are also affected by some type of vision loss or abnormality. To address this issue, VSP Vision Care worked with the Special Olympics to provide 50,000 athletes around the U.S. with the vision care they need via the “Send a High Five” campaign. For more information on the importance of healthy eyes and the campaign, check out this infographic!

Kristina, along with Dr. Lee Ann Barrett from the Missouri Optometric Association and the Opening Eyes program, will discuss the importance of an annual eye exam—particularly for individuals with intellectual disabilities—and share their own experiences in relation to eye health and the Special Olympics.

Make sure to tune in at 11:15 am on Thursday!

Lisa Berryhill’s Maid of Honor Speech

Lisa Berryhill is an athlete from Southeast Area. Her sister, Amy, is her Unified Partner  and asked Lisa to be her maid of honor. Lisa showed incredible courage as she delivered the toast in front of a full room of guests at the wedding on June 16, 2012. Below is the text from the speech.  

I’d like to make a toast to Amy and Billy.

First I wanted to say that Amy has always been there for me.  She has done Special Olympics bocce doubles with me. She comes to watch my Special Olympics events to cheer me on and now Billy has started to come and cheer me on too.

Amy and I might fight a lot, but we are still sisters and we are there for each other.  I love her and am proud of her. Billy you better be good to her and take care of her.

Billy picks on me a lot and tries to make me mad, but I want him to know that I still love him.

I hope you both the best and just want you to be happy. Welcome to the family, Billy.

I love you both! Be happy!

Peggy Berryhill, Amy and Billy Dinkins and Lisa Berryhill

2012 Special Olympics Capitol Hill Day

Brenda Niemeyer is mother to athlete Jared as well as an active coach and volunteer in the Northeast Area.

Every parent is filled with hopes and dreams at the birth of their child. Anything is possible for this precious little one; the possibilities are limitless and the future is bright! 18 parents out of 100 learn their child has an intellectual or developmental disability. The love you feel for your child is undeniable; when a parent is informed of their child’s limitations or impairments, they grieve for the loss of possibilities for their child. You agonize for the limitations a disability or the world may impose on your child. Despite this stunning news your child is a blessing, a precious addition to your family. You begin navigating the slippery slopes of the disability world. You spend hours promoting development, implementing therapeutic methods to strengthen, sharpen, enhance, and stimulate growth, juggling schedules and simply striving to be an informed, effective parent. Before you know it, your little one grows and develops into a remarkable individual with hopes and dreams of their own!

Our children are remarkable, gifted actually, with a capacity others often lack. Our children learn to not accept defeat, to celebrate the successes, develop resiliency to overcome difficulties with a sense of humor and commitment, they embrace their capacity for caring and lavish it upon others. These differences are not limiting – they are character defining. Such obstacles have generated an empowered individual. These were the types of individuals speaking to their legislators in Washington D. C. for Special Olympics Capitol Hill day on February 8, 2012.

Jared Niemeyer with Representative Carnahan

Special Olympics athletes representing 40 states met with their Representatives and Senators to discuss disability issues, the Eunice Kennedy Shriver (EKS) Act and how Special Olympics has influenced their life. These dynamic, empowered individuals carried remarkable messages of overcoming countless obstacles, courage in the midst of loss or defeat, rejuvenating hope and enlightenment. Their message was confident, genuine and truly inspirational!

The Missouri delegation met individually with the legislative assistants of Representatives Vicky Hartzler, Sam Graves, Billy Long, Emanuel Cleaver, and Senator Claire McCaskill. We also met with staff of Representative Joanne Emerson, Chairperson of the Appropriations Committee. We had the honor of speaking with Representatives Todd Akin, Russ Carnahan, Blaine Luetkemeyer and William L. Clay, Jr. President & COO of Special Olympics International, Brady Lum, joined us for an excellent conversation with Jack Ruddy, legislative assistant to Rep. Sam Graves.

Jared with Representative Clay

Our final visit of the day was with Senator Roy Blunt, co-sponsor of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver Act. This meeting took place in Senator Blunt’s offices. The conference room of Senator Blunt’s office was the office of Harry S. Truman’s during part of his vice-presidency. Tim Shriver, Chairman & CEO Special Olympics, Inc., was able to join us for this remarkable meeting. Senator Blunt shared with us historical moments during Truman’s tenure. As a committed supporter of intellectual/developmental disability issues, Blunt not only received us warmly, but spoke knowledgably of our concerns.

Capitol Hill Day concluded with a candlelight vigil at the Reflecting Pool. Despite the cold temperatures and chilly rain – spirits and enthusiasm could not be dampened! The message to promote inclusive education, competitive employment and healthy living remained strong! Hopes and dreams were very much alive within the hearts of every individual representing Special Olympics and Best Buddies.

Jared and Representative Luetkemeyer

On Capitol Hill the voices of these Special Olympics athletes and Best Buddies were confident, speaking out with the resilience taught by life experience and character representative of strong personal values. The individuals participating in Capitol Hill Day reminded one another they represented thousands of athletes from their home states; therefore, were committed to delivering a strong, clear message. Pursuing inclusive education, community living, fair and competitive employment and living healthy lifestyles was the focus of this message. Their dreams are bold, their voice was strong and clear. The hopes and dreams of these remarkable young individuals are perhaps greater than those we may have initially dreamed for our children!

Let’s join our voices with those who carry this message every day. Our youth are the leaders prompting the advocacy for those with intellectual and developmental disabilities today. Expect social justice and opportunity for every citizen. Disabilities do not preclude possibilities. Special Olympics promotes opportunities and empowerment. Allow your dreams to soar – as anything is possible for the strong of heart!