The University hosted its first annual celebration of Disability Awareness Day by inviting a mother-and-son team to speak on behalf of Spread the Word to End the Word, an anti-bullying organization dedicated to advocate those with disabilities.
The event was run by Pi Kappa Phi Fraternity, Kappa Phi Beta sorority, the School of Education, and Student Engagement organizations in order to help spread awareness of the organization formed during the 2009 Special Olympics World Winter Games that speaks out against bullying, handicap discrimination, and the use of the word ‘retarded’ with a negative association to those with disabilities.
ESPN announcer Debbie Antonelli and her son Frankie were the guests in last Monday’s Spread the Word to End the Word lecture.
Debbie Antonelli for the past 23 years has worked as a women’s basketball analyst, covering both college and professional games for ESPN, CBS, Fox Sports, and Westwood One.
“Although I don’t like to use a lot of clichés when talking about sports, there are two clichés that I’ve learned really ring true in my personal life,” she said.
“Don’t judge a book by its cover, and you don’t truly know a person until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes.” She explained how important it is to keep an open mind, especially when meeting someone with disabilities.
In addition to explaining what Spread the Word stands for, the announced her plan to found the organization Frankie and Friends as a campaign against bullying regular kids and kids with disabilities alike.
“I tell people I have three sons, and my middle one is smart, handsome, athletic, and thinks he looks like Justin Bieber”, she said.
“Having a disability is only a part of someone- it’s not who they are. No one should ever jump to conclusions about someone based on only a part of them.”
Frankie, who is a fifteen-year-old with Down Syndrome, started off his speech with a huge smile and a wave to his audience.
“I’m Frankie”, he said. “and I bet we like the same things.”
He went on to talk about those things he liked. He’s competed in the Special Olympics three times, and is one of the only players on his baseball team who doesn’t have to take the field with a buddy. He talked about all of his friends, making sure to specially recognize the new friends he had made on campus that day, and told everyone how much he loves to sing.
“One day”, he said. “I’d like to go to college.”
Domenick Luongo of the Pi Kappa Phi fraternity attended the forum and enjoyed the event altogether.
‘It was one of the most uplifting speeches I have ever heard,” he said.
“There could not have been more support for Frankie and as a member of Pi Kappa Phi, we are more than appreciative.”