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Monarch, Epiphany students help to raise awareness about people with disabilities

Agency, New Bern students join to support DD Month, "Spread the Word to End the Word" campaign

Monarch and The Epiphany School of Global Studies in New Bern are teaming up to brepiphany school2ing awareness during Developmental Disabilities Awareness (DD) Month. The student club, “Footprints for a Change,” organized a program during chapel to be held on Friday, March 14. Laura Shumate, a participant of Monarch’s Day program at Health Drive, will speak to students about her life and interests.

To discourage the use of the word known as the “R-word,” Monarch and Epiphany students will join other organizations and individuals nationwide, in an initiative called “Spread the Word to End the Word,” created in partnership with Special Olympics Project Unify, Best Buddies and people with and without disabilities. Their presentation will allow the students to highlight the campaign through Special Olympics Project Unify, an education-based project developed by Special Olympics, that uses sports, educational programs and resources to advocate for those living with disabilities.

The Spread the Word to End the Word campaign takes a stand against a word that has gained popularity in culture, found a place in common language and seems to be accepted by most, despite the fact that its use, casual or otherwise, is hurtful to the more than 200 million people worldwide with disabilities as well as the people who love and support them. This movement comes during Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month, which is observed in March. President Ronald Reagan proclaimed it a national observance in 1987 and urged Americans to increase public awareness of the needs and the potential of Americans with developmental disabilities. After chapel, the Epiphany students will have the chance to sign a banner pledging to stop using the R-word.

The Footprints for a Change club started last September when a group of sixth grade students approached Epiphany’s Director of Community Engagement Cille Griffith after hearing a derogatory comment made about a child with a disability. The comment bothered them so much they decided to channel their response in a positive direction.

Griffith and the students decided to host a 5K race to benefit RHA Howell, an organization that provides residential services for those living with disabilities, in New Bern. The raised $11,000 and were able to donate a technology table, a device similar to a smart board but on legs, to RHA Howell for their residents to use. The students were so encouraged by the community support that they have another 5K scheduled on Sept. 20, and the funds raised from it will go towards creating a sensory room for participants at Monarch’s Health Drive and new playground equipment for RHA Howell.

Savannah Sparks, a student and member of the Footprints for a Change club, said DD Awareness is important for her and fellow club members and she hopes through the chapel service, people will learn to stop using the R-word.

“There are many people in this world who are different from our standards of ‘normal,’ and we want to end the judgment and help people learn more about their situations,” Sparks said.

Griffith echoed Sparks, noting that the students of the club want to connect with those living with disabilities “in a way that is open and accepting and to be able to pass that on to others.” This acceptance is also something Griffith hopes will hit home for the rest of the student body. “We just want people to see those living with disabilities as human beings with similar interests as theirs. I think this opportunity for connection and interaction will help create new attitudes,” she said.

Established in 1958, Monarch provides support statewide to thousands of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, mental illness and substance use disorders. The agency is nationally accredited by The Council on Quality and Leadership (CQL) and is CABHA certified. Monarch, which operates The Arc of Stanly County, is an affiliate chapter of The Arc of North Carolina and The Arc of the United States. To learn more about how Monarch is “Helping Dreams Take Flight” for people living in our communities, please call (800) 230-7525.   

Pictured above: Students from the Epiphany School of Global Studies in New Bern work to raise awareness about people with disabilities during national Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month.

Media contact: Natasha A. Suber at (704) 986-1582 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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