By Chelsea Chandler
In the six weeks since being chosen Miss Collierville’s Outstanding Teen 2014, Olivia Shawkey has kept busy with many official activities, but the one closest to her 15-year-old heart is Best Buddies. Best Buddies is a national organization that encourages one-to-one friendships between people with disabilities and those without.
Through local school chapters and events, the emerging Shelby County Best Buddies chapter is growing its footprint and helping to form Best Buddy relationships.
“There are over 200 million people around the world intellectual disabilities,” Shawkey said Monday before Collierville Mayor Stan Joyner and the Town’s Board of Alderman. “People with intellectual and developmental disabilities are capable and enjoy sharing life experiences – listening to music, playing video games, watching the latest movies, and yes, just having fun! Sometimes, they just need a Buddy to have fun with, and that is the mission of Best Buddies.”
Shawkey, along with Best Buddies Executive Director Melissa Todd, are working to bring local attention to the national effort to “Spread the Word to End the Word.” This effort is to raise peoples’ awareness of the derogatory use of the R-Word (retard or retarded) and its negative effects on people with intellectual disabilities. However, this campaign is about more than just raising awareness of the R-word; it is also about changing attitudes of segregation and hate, to attitudes of acceptance and respect.
During the Town of Collierville’s official meeting, Mayor Joyner proclaimed Wednesday, March 5 as “Spread the Word to End the Word Day” in Collierville. Citizens and youth of the Town of Collierville are encouraged to think before they speak, and help spread the word to end the R-word.
“Local students and citizens are encouraging to pledge not to use the R-word. The campaign is intended to engage schools, organizations and communities to rally and pledge their support at www.r-word.org and to promote inclusion and acceptance of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities,” Todd said. “People with disabilities are often excluded from society and end up feeling alienated and alone. By changing society’s perception of people with intellectual disabilities and by establishing meaningful friendships, we can help those with disabilities navigate through life with more confidence and ease,” Shawkey said.
Next up for Shawkey and the Best Buddies Organization is the annual Friendship Walk on Sunday, March 23 at Ducks Unlimited Headquarters. The Friendship Walk changes lives, as participants walk for inclusion, friendship, leadership, and opportunity for people with and without Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities.
Melissa Todd, executive director of Best Buddies-Shelby County, and Olivia Shawkey, Miss Collierville’s Outstanding Teen 2014, are working to bring local attention to the national effort to “Spread the Word to End the Word.” The effort raises peoples’ awareness of the derogatory use of the R-Word (retard or retarded) and its negative effects on people with intellectual disabilities. Collierville Mayor Stan Joyner proclaimed March 5 as “Spread the Word to End the Word Day.”
For more information on how you can join the “Spread the World to End the Word” effort or the upcoming Friendship Walk, contact Melissa Todd at Best Buddies Tennessee-Memphis. She can be reached at (901) 937-0005 or firstname.lastname@example.org.