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Wheaton College Earns November Special Olympics Spotlight Award

The school received the most votes in the Division III November Special Olympics Spotlight Poll


NORTON, Mass. – The Wheaton College women's basketball team recently took the pledge to "Spread the Word to End the Word," a national campaign to end the derogatory use of the word "retard(ed)" in everyday speech, with a group of Mansfield 7th grade girls' as part of their mentoring collaboration.

Earlier this month, the women's basketball team invited the Mansfield group to campus on three separate occasions to mentor the 7th grade girls on the fundamentals of basketball, schoolwork and life at home. Wheaton women's basketball head coach Melissa Hodgdon also decided to involve the Mansfield group in the "Spread the Word to End the Word" campaign and pledge to "End the R Word." During their last session, both teams designed a banner, signed it and took the pledge together in a cohesive effort to raise awareness for the cause. The Mansfield 7th graders then took the banner to their school for their classmates to sign and also take the pledge to "End the R Word."

"I was so pleased when the parents of the 7th graders were willing to join us in the 'Spread the Word to End the R Word' campaign," said Hodgdon. "The girls took such great care of the banner and educating their classmates on what signing the banner meant. This obviously means a lot to our community at Wheaton and in Mansfield."

On October 2-3, the Wheaton women's basketball team will bring the banner back to campus in Balfour Hood to encourage students, faculty and staff to take the pledge and sign the banner as well. The Lyons will then present the banner to the Best Buddies group at the third annual Best Buddies Charity Softball Game on Sunday, October 5. The Service, Spirituality and Social Responsibility (SSSR) Office and the Best Buddies will look to raise money and awareness about inclusion of individuals with intellectual disabilities this coming Sunday.

"I think our sessions have an impact both on our team and their team. It not only impacts our team because it gives us a better connection with the community and each other, but it also allows the 7th graders the chance to learn a ton of new things and have fun through the game of basketball," said senior guard Kirsten Ferrari (Lynn, Mass./Saint Mary's). "More importantly, our team knows we have to set the right example for the Mansfield 7th graders in-and-out of the classroom as we may be a group they choose to look up and strive to be like, and that means a lot to us."

The women's basketball squad decided to take the pledge to "End the R Word" because of its longstanding connection with Special Olympics and the Heller's Angels Special Olympics Team. Last year, the Lyons and the Heller's Angels had its partnership recognized by the Connecticut Sun of the Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA) at a game against the Indiana Fever at Mohegan Sun Arena. To read more about the friendship between the Heller's Angels and the Wheaton women's basketball team click here: Women's Basketball, Heller's Angels Friendship Continues To Foster.

"Spread the Word to End the Word" is an ongoing effort by Special Olympics, Best Buddies International and its supporters to raise the consciousness of society about the dehumanizing and hurtful effects of the word "retard(ed)" and encourage people to pledge to stop using the R-word. The effort has been spearheaded by college students, Soeren Palumbo (Notre Dame, 2011) and Tim Shriver (Yale, 2011), and led by young people, Special Olympics athletes and Best Buddies partners across the country.

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