By Ashley Wioskowski
Western Michigan University athletes and students are joining forces with local community members for “WMU End the ‘R’ Word day.”
Different volunteers will be stationed around campus to inform the WMU community about the hurtful affects of the use of the words “retard” or “retarded.”
On Tuesday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., tables will be found in the Student Recreation Center, the Bernhard Center, College of Health and Human Services, Sangren Hall and Schneider Hall.
Each table will provide information about the effects, have giveaways and a raffle for free T-shirts donated from the Special Olympics.
At the tables will be volunteers from the Department of Health, Physical Education, and Recreation, WMU student athletes from the volleyball and football teams and Special Olympics Michigan Area 16 athletes along with family members and other community members, including those with disabilities.
“For me, it’s coming from someone with a disability and they can explain how it affects them, and hurts them,” Jessica Rapelje, WMU graduate student, said. “It means more than coming from another college student.”
There will also be a pledge board for students to sign who also runs the Special Olympics at WMU, Rapelje said.
“People will sign pledging not to use the ‘R’ word,” she said.
Instead ashe said the campaign is aimed to replace the word with “respect.”
This is the first year WMU has done this and Rapelje said it is part of a movement that was initiated at the Special Olympics World Games, which she attended.
There is a National Day, which will be celebrated on March 31, but Rapelje said WMU decided to push the day early to support the upcoming Polar Plunge on March 28.
Polar Plunge is a fundraising event for the Special Olympics put on by the Special Olympics and the Western Student Association.
Rapelje said that many colleges besides WMU are celebrating this day to spread the word.
“So many kids especially at younger ages are using it and don’t know how it affects someone,” she said. “We’re here to inform them how it discriminates those with disabilities.”