FHS senior campaigns to Spread Word to End Word

Natalie Campbell, a Farragut High School senior, in her campaign to Spread the Word to End the Word, organized a basketball game involving FHS’ special education students and boys’ and girls’ basketball team members.

The game, which took place in the high school gymnasium on Friday, April 1, was part of Natalie’s campaign, supported by Special Olympics, to promote an attitude of respect for people with intellectual disabilities. It was sponsored by Valerie Cagle and Angela Breeding, FHS teachers.

“We’re very excited,” Joe Campbell, Natalie’s father, said. “[The campaign has] gotten bigger and better.”

“This [game] is the newest addition to the program,” Jackie Campbell, Natalie’s mother, said.

“I can’t say enough about what Natalie has done to raise awareness with this program,” Joe Campbell said. “Even beyond the benefit of the program, I think [Natalie] has set an example one person can make an impact.”

“I hope this [game] will show people with disabilities are more like their peers without disabilities than they are different,” Natalie said.

“It sounds fun,” Michael Rucin-ski, a FHS senior, said about the game. “I like it.”

The teams were a mixture of basketball team members and special education students, she said.

“I think it’s great,” Trainor Gray, a FHS senior, said. “[Trainor’s brother] John has excited about it all day.”

“I think it’s awesome,” Shelby Matthews, a FHS junior and a basketball player, said. “I think it’s a great experience for them to get on the court, and we can share something we love to do.”

“I think it will be fun for us and the other kids who are playing. It’s a great experience,” Luke Janney, a senior and a FHS basketball player, said.

“It’s really cool,” Kate McMur-ry, a junior, said. “It’s really a good project Natalie has done, and it’s good to see people rallying around to support it.”

Prior to the game on March 28, Natalie sold T-shirts and wrist bands that read “Respect,” and she and her friends organized rallies.

“This year, we interviewed students and teachers about their experiences with disabilities and we created some videos, which were shown during the rallies,” Natalie said.

“Through the years, Natalie has held rallies of 1,300-plus students, addressed all of the Knox County principals and even had been instrumental in getting the language of the Tennessee state law changed to use more current language of ‘intellectual disability’ instead of ‘mental retardation,’” Jackie Campbell said.

“Natalie is particularly passionate about this campaign because she has a sister, Olivia, with Down syndrome.”

Natalie started the campaign when she was in the seventh grade at Farragut Middle School and continued the Spread the Word program at FHS.

“I started it in honor of my sister, Olivia, in the hopes she would walk the halls of her school feeling like a valued member of her student body and to make people aware what the ‘R’ word means and [students] are really hurting when they say it,” Natalie said.

“It's goal is to encourage people to take a pledge to stop using the word ‘retard’ in a casual way,” Jackie Campbell said.

“We also have a banner [students] can sign to pledge to eliminate the ‘R’ word and to respect people with disabilities,” Natalie said.