By Jackie Cannon, News Editor
Best Buddies, Autism Awareness, and Unified Sports held their annual Spread the Word to End the Word event on Sunday, April 23 to raise awareness about the effects of using the “r-word,” retarded. Holy Cross students and community members with and without intellectual disabilities came together to celebrate their differences through an event that included a dance performance by Unified Theatre and speeches from members on why they are hurt by the r-word.
According to its website, Best Buddies seeks to create “opportunities for one-to-one friendships, integrated employment and leadership development for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD).” Best Buddies Secretary Kara Cuzzone ‘19 explained that, at Holy Cross, “Best Buddies is an RSO that pairs Holy Cross students with individuals from the Worcester community with intellectual and developmental disabilities. We have different events once a month throughout the year like Zumba, ice cream socials, and field days.”
Autism Awareness, another club on campus, “disseminates information about autism and gets students involved in events at Holy Cross and on a national level through the organization Autism Speaks,” according to the Holy Cross website. Unified Sports, the other sponsor of this event, is a group that allows Holy Cross students to play various sports with individuals with IDD.
Spread the Word campaigns are held by Best Buddies groups in order to raise awareness of the effects of using the r-word. At the Holy Cross event, Luke Reynolds ‘18, the co-chair of Autism Awareness and the secretary of Best Buddies, and two young women with IDD spoke about how the r-word made them feel. Reynolds spoke about how 89% of people surveyed think that that using the r-word is wrong, yet 56% still think it’s okay to use to refer to themselves, and 31% think it’s okay to use the r-word to describe their friends.
The second speaker, Anita Griffin, explained that she doesn’t like the r-word because “it makes fun of me and my brother and my close friends.” She spoke about how using the r-word takes away from everything she has achieved, including receiving her high school diploma and passing the state MCAS test, and “that’s a really hard thing to do.”
Ashley, another speaker stated that “people who have special needs are not different than anyone else in the world.” She went on to speak about how she may have a hard time doing something like making change, but she is able to pass CPR training for her job. “Would you want someone to come over to you and make fun of you?” she asked the audience. “Not me.”
To conclude the event, members of Best Buddies, Autism Awareness, and Unified Sports joined together to dance to “Can’t Stop the Feeling” and “Don’t Stop Believin.” For the second of these two performances, they used ASL in their performance.
When asked what her favorite part of the event was, Cuzzone said “My favorite part of Spread the Word to End the Word was definitely the Unified Theatre dance performances we did. All the buddies were having a great time, and their energy is infectious.” At the end of the performance, Reynolds reminded the audience of the importance to “continue to spread the word to end the r-word.”