The City of DuQuoin in southern Illinois has embraced Special Olympics and has worked to spread the message about how the program transforms the lives of all involved in the program through a R-Word Day and numerous fundraising tournaments.
Spread the Word to End the Word Event
On Nov. 12, the City of DuQuoin united the community to Spread the Word to End the Word, aimed at ending the hurtful use of the R-word (“retard(ed)”) negatively impacting people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Special Olympics Illinois and the City of DuQuoin encouraged all DuQuoin residents to attend the city council meeting and pledge their support to eliminate the R-Word from their vocabularies. A drive-thru was also set up outside to accommodate those DuQuoin residents who could not make the City Hall meeting. Residents were able to sign a poster to pledge their support.
This unique event, the first of its kind on a citywide level in Southern Illinois, was developed by DuQuoin Mayor Rex Duncan and Caitlin Asbury, a Southern Illinois University student, Southern/Area 15 volunteer and sister of Special Olympics athlete Brenna Asbury.
Area Director Paul Melzer said “Caitlin has been instrumental in getting this campaign off the ground in Southern Illinois.” Last year alone, Caitlin planned and successfully hosted numerous R-Word Pledge days including the 2013 Girls Winter Indoor Softball Tournament, Southern/Area 15 Spring Games, DuQuoin High School, a Southern Illinois Miners Baseball Game and 2013 Boys Baseball Winter Indoor Classic.
Spread the Word to End the Word™ is an ongoing effort by Special Olympics, Best Buddies and our supporters to raise the consciousness of society about the dehumanizing and hurtful effects of the R-word and encourage people to pledge to stop using the R-word.
The campaign, created by youth, is intended to engage schools organizations and communities to rally and pledge their support and to promote the inclusion and acceptance of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
“It is time we Spread the Word to End the Word and build awareness for society to stop and think about its use of the R-word. Most people don’t think of this word as hate speech, but that’s exactly what it feels like to millions of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, their families and friends,” said Melzer.
Please read more about activities Special Olympics Illinois is planning for the worldwide Spread the Word to End the Word Day on March 5.
Boys Baseball Winter Indoor Classic
The inaugural Boys Baseball Winter Indoor Classic was held Dec. 14-15 at the SI Center in DuQuoin with 9 boys baseball teams competing in the 2-day tournament.
In addition to the 120 players competing in the tournament, two Special Olympics male softball teams played an exhibition game. The Southern Illinois Lightning Bolts challenged the Choate Panthers before a packed crowd as part of Opening Ceremonies.
“For me, that was the highlight of the tournament as all the participating teams and the fans in stands stayed to watch and cheer our local athletes as they played their game,” said Melzer.
The classic, which featured 10 & under and 11 & under divisions, raised $8,550 for Southern/Area 15. “We received a ton of great feedback from the coaches and players and look forward to hosting this event again each year,” Melzer said.
An R-Word Pledge Booth was set up for teams and fans to pledge their support all weekend.
Girls Indoor Winter Fast-Pitch Softball Tournament
Twenty-eight girls softball teams will compete in the 5th Annual Girls Indoor Winter Fast-Pitch Softball Tournament at the SI Center Jan. 17-19, 2014. Girls softball teams from Illinois, Kentucky and Missouri will compete in the following age groups: 12 & under, 14 & under and 16 & under. The tournament has raised more than $191,000 in its first four years for Southern/Area 15.
As part of Opening Ceremonies, Special Olympics all-female teams the Southern Illinois Lightning Bugs and Beverly Farms Blue Diamonds will play a demonstration softball game – the first game between 2 all-female Special Olympics softball teams in the state. The Lightning Bugs were the first all-female Special Olympics softball team in Illinois and won the gold medal at the 2013 Outdoor Sports Festival. The team encourages other Special Olympics agencies to field all-female teams so they have more competition and expose more female athletes to the benefits of Special Olympics.
Opening Ceremonies is scheduled for noon Saturday, Jan. 18, and fans are encouraged to come out and support the participating teams and their local Special Olympics Athletes.
An R-Word Pledge Booth will be set up for teams and fans to pledge their support all weekend.
Bill Asbury, father of Caitlin and Brenna, approached Special Olympics with this idea in 2009 as a way to help raise money for Area program. “Bill’s tournament is changing lives and bringing one message to the world – people with intellectual disabilities can and will succeed if given the opportunity,” said Melzer. By 2010, Asbury’s hard work and dedication came to fruition as he hosted the inaugural Girls Winter Indoor Softball Tournament. Five years later, the tournament is a huge success with more than 350 teams from around the nation interested in competing.
Citizen of the Year
Asbury, creator of both the baseball and softball tournaments, was named 2013 Citizen of the Year by the DuQuoin Chamber of Commerce on Dec. 10.
Asbury has been a coach for Special Olympics for six years, is as a key volunteer in Southern/Area 15 and also serves on the Spring Games Planning Committee and the Polar Plunge Committee. He was named Special Olympics Illinois Outstanding Volunteer of the Year in 2012.
“Bill is truly the most selfless man I have ever met in my entire life,” said Melzer. “He is passionate about our mission and has been vital to our local program’s success. Like our athletes, Bill has transformed the lives of many and that shows with the letters we receive each year from the coaches who participated in the tournament and the local athletes we invite to take part in our tournament each year.”
“Bill’s wife, Jill, and daughters Caitlin, Lindsey, Emily and Brenna all play a huge part in the success of Southern/Area 15,” said Melzer. “We couldn’t do what we do without their tremendous support.”