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Kimberly Woeste, Chaplain/Director of Spiritual Life and Church Relations, 406.657.1098, firstname.lastname@example.org
Jill Washburn, Community Services Coordinator, 406.238.7394, email@example.com
RMC media team, 406.657.1105, firstname.lastname@example.org
Photos: (Top photo, from left to right) Jami Williamson (Region 2 Outreach Director for Special Olympics), Joey Lucara (Special Olympics Ambassador and athlete), LeAnn Dolly-Powell (Project UNIFY Director for Special Olympics), and Emily Schaff. (Bottom photo, from left to right) Emily presenting check to Bob Norby, CEO of Special Olympics Montana, with Joey Lucara.
RMC student Emily Schaff inspires support for Special Olympics Montana
BILLINGS, March 25, 2015 – For RMC freshman Emily Schaff, a brief meeting with representatives from Special Olympics turned into a collaboration that has launched a number of new initiatives for students at RMC.
During this initial meeting, Schaff met Jami Williamson, the Region 2 Outreach Director for Special Olympics Montana. Schaff expressed her interest in working with Special Olympics and providing opportunities for RMC students. This initiated the planning of “Pledge Day for Spread the Word to End the Word.”
“Spread the Word to End the Word” is a non-profit organization that raises awareness about the derogatory use of the word “retard(ed)” and promotes not using the word in such a way.
The National R-Word Pledge Day took place over RMC’s Spring Break, so R-Word Pledge Day for the Rocky community followed a week later on March 11, 2015. Schaff worked in collaboration with Special Olympics Montana and RMC’s Lunch Out Loud program to set up a pledge table during lunchtime in the student center of RMC. Special Olympics Montana provided a large poster, where students, faculty, and staff could sign their name to make the pledge to not use the “R-Word” in a derogatory way. There was also an opportunity for students to sign up for the Yellowstone Valley Area Games for Special Olympics Montana, which are taking place April 24-25.
“I think it’s important for people to understand why the r-word, retard(ed), is offensive and unnecessary,” said Schaff. She explained how this derogatory term has an even closer meaning to her, as she is the younger sister of a special needs brother. “From my perspective, I find it very offensive because my brother isn’t a stupid person at all.”
“Overall, I think it’s important to teach people that if you want to say something is stupid, say it’s stupid, or dumb, or idiotic, or any other word that is an actual synonym for stupid,” added Schaff. “There’s no need to put people down who can’t control certain things about themselves just so you can look cool or fit in.”
Schaff explained that one of her two older brothers was born deaf with physical characteristics of an autistic individual. She described how her brother taught himself how to use smart phones, computers, and other forms of technology. “Honestly, most of the time he teaches us,” she added.
“Just because my brother is special needs, it doesn’t mean that he should be seen as an individual who isn’t capable of anything,” said Schaff. “The same goes to all other special needs individuals out there.”
During the Pledge Day, Schaff and Special Olympics Montana collected 78 signatures from those who promised not to use the r-word in a derogative manner.
However, Schaff doesn’t plan to stop there. “My future plans with Special Olympics as an individual and as a student assistant for the Office of Community Involvement and Office of Spiritual Life include to be the Special Olympics representative for Rocky Mountain College and be more involved in local activities taking place.”
“For the next academic year, we are looking at recruiting individuals to volunteer at area events in addition to the Area Games,” added Schaff. “We will also invite people to create teams to participate in the Polar Plunge, which is a fundraiser event for the local Special Olympics.” She also plans to make the Pledge Day for Spread the Word to End the Word Day an annual event at RMC.
Schaff is also working with Special Olympics Montana to create an SO College on the RMC campus, which would provide opportunities for students and employees to volunteer and help plan future events for the Special Olympics.
As part of her 20th birthday wish, Schaff also set up a GoFundMe page at http://www.gofundme.com/n9gz58. In lieu of collecting presents for her 20th birthday, Schaff asked for donations to be made, which she could present to the Special Olympics organization during the Pledge Day at RMC. Her goal was $304 (representing her birthday March 4th). On March 11, Schaff was thrilled to give the Special Olympics program a check for $400 raised through her GoFundMe page.
“Having a special needs brother, I'm forever grateful for organizations like Special Olympics that allow individuals on various levels to compete and be involved on a community level,” said Schaff.
Kim Woeste, RMC’s Chaplain/Director of Spiritual Life and Church Relations, said, “I can’t say enough good things about Emily. She is truly an exceptional student. I have a great deal of respect for her dedication to volunteering. She is committed to being involved and making a difference in the community, and she motivates others to do the same.”
“To me, it's inspiring to watch Emily work,” added Woeste. “She organizes service projects and supports partnerships with agencies in town because she cares deeply. Whether it's with the HUB, Special Olympics, Ronald McDonald House, or with any one of the numerous other agencies we've worked with, she's invested in the success of their efforts.”
“At Rocky Mountain College, I think we strive to provide opportunities for students to find a niche, to excel, and to grow in leadership. Emily exemplifies the best of what a student leader can accomplish in a supportive learning environment,” said Woeste.
Currently, Schaff is recruiting volunteers for the Yellowstone Valley Area Games on April 24-25. To sign up, or for more information, visit http://www.volunteerspot.com/login/entry/368300778090, or contact Schaff at email@example.com.