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Montecito YMCA, Special Olympics Teaming Up to Spread the Word to End the Word

On Saturday, March 14, the Montecito Family YMCA and Special Olympics Santa Barbara invite the public to attend the Spread the Word to End the Word day of awareness in support of the Special Olympics R-Word Campaign.

From 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., community members are welcome to visit the Montecito Family YMCA to participate in Special Olympics R-Word Campaign pledge drives, watch YMCA youth basketball teams compete, and meet local Special Olympics Global Messengers.

Originally introduced as a medical term, the word “retard(ed)” is now widely used in today’s society as a synonym for “dumb” or “stupid,” reinforcing painful stereotypes of people with intellectual disabilities as being less valued members of society.

The R-Word Campaign, a youth-led movement established by Special Olympics and Best Buddies International, declares the R-word hurtful, even if it is not directed at a person with intellectual disabilities.

"We do not like being labeled in that way because we have feelings just like you do," said Jessica Simon, a local Special Olympics athlete.

The Spread the Word to End the Word day of awareness will be held as part of the YMCA’s Togetherhood movement, which provides YMCA members with opportunities to give back to their local community through fun and engaging service projects.

“Social responsibility is a major area of focus for the YMCA. This pledge rally is a great opportunity to create awareness and remind our community about the importance of inclusive behaviors and language,” Montecito Family YMCA Youth Programs Director Aaron Martinez said.

Twelve students from the Santa Barbara YMCA Pilots Program and a small group of Montecito YMCA volunteers will volunteer at the event to help facilitate the pledge drives.

For more information about the R-Word Campaign or to Pledge to End the R-Word online, visit Special Olympics Santa Barbara is a nonprofit organization providing year-round sports training and competition opportunities to over 500 children, teens and adults with intellectual disabilities in the Santa Barbara area. The Montecito Family YMCA is a charitable organization providing programs based upon Christian principles to men, women, and children of all ages, races, religious beliefs and economic status to develop and enrich the spirit, mind, and body.

— Ann Wirtz is the marketing coordinator for the Montecito Family YMCA.

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