March is a significant month for the Special Olympics movement. During March, we participate in the R-Word Campaign (March 5th) as well as Capitol Hill Day (March 12th) – two important events that come together and create a nation-wide platform for our collective voices.
Raising awareness for people-first language has always been a priority for Special Olympics Florida. That’s because Special Olympics is more than just sports. With a focus on physical, social and emotional development through sports, wellness and leadership training, Special Olympics Florida is part of a global movement dedicated to bringing tolerance and acceptance that will unify the world.
Consider the R-Word Campaign. Through local campaigns and social media, we have elevated conversations about a word that is often used to hurt and demean an entire population. That’s why campaigns like Spread the Word to End the Word are important to our movement – because they educate others on how people with intellectual disabilities are often marginalized by society. A major win came last summer when calls-to-action from our community helped push landmark legislation in Florida to drop the R-Word from state laws.
Next, we’ll take our movement to Washington, D.C. for Capitol Hill Day. The day is meant to raise awareness about a population that deserves to be heard. This year Florida is proud to head to Washington to support legislation that helps fund health and education programming for people with intellectual disabilities. I’ll be traveling with two athlete leaders, David Mallis of Miami-Dade County and Maryann Gonzalez of Lake County, who will speak on behalf of the more than 24,000 athletes across Florida.
Despite national attention for these two key events, our movement stalls without the support of our local communities. As a grassroots movement, Special Olympics depends on our fans to help us serve our athletes, reach new audiences and make a difference in the lives of all people with intellectual disabilities. You are an essential part in helping us generate awareness for our movement, whether you take the pledge to help end the use of the R-Word or write to your local representatives about how they can advocate for Special Olympics legislation – every action is significant.
At Special Olympics Florida we remain focused on four specific outcomes as it relates to our organization and mission: Growth, Quality, Sustainability and Awareness. As we head into the summer we’ll continue to host opportunities for action in each of these areas. We have much work ahead but with your support, we will continue to create experiences and opportunities that will sustain and strengthen our movement.
Sherry Wheelock, President & CEO
Special Olympics Florida