By Natalie Nordeen
Class of 2014
SPOKANE, Wash. – The student leaders of Gonzaga University Specialized Recreation have created a video for their annual campaign to “End the R-Word.” The video calls for Gonzaga students to eliminate the “R-word” from their vocabulary – noting it’s disrespectful and has no place at Gonzaga. The campaign is part of a national effort titled “Spread the Word to End the Word” sponsored by Special Olympics, Best Buddies and supporters.
“The ‘R-word’ is hurtful and offensive to the people I love and care for,” said Aly Lykken, a sophomore involved in the campaign. “Many people use this word without really understanding what they are saying.”
Gonzaga senior Andrew Opila, who created the campaign video, holds GUSR close to his heart.
“GUSR has taught me to see these people not as people with a disability, but rather as some of my closest friends with unique abilities way beyond what we can fathom,” Opila said. The campaign, he said, offers Gonzaga students the opportunity to stand up for people who have been labeled, and to celebrate the gifts God has given each of His children.
The campaign also includes a pledge for students to sign, and provides “End the R-Word” T-shirts. GUSR, which operates entirely on donations, works with adults with developmental disabilities and is among the most beloved of Gonzaga’s programs. Students come together to create events for adults, which helps generate a safe place for everyone to feel welcome, respected and loved. In addition to campaigns such as “End the R-Word,” GUSR is involved in Special Olympics, seasonal parties, plays, and the annual Way of the Heart Retreat.
The video and call to action are part of GUSR’s Disability Awareness Week, which aims to highlight each person’s abilities instead of focusing on weaknesses. GUSR was spearheaded on campus approximately 10 years ago by then undergraduate Megan Drobnicki through Gonzaga’s Center for Community Action and Service-Learning.
Lykken calls GUSR a place where she has never worried about the way she feels, looks, or acts. “I have never met people who are as loving, caring and fun as our participants at GUSR,” Lykken said.
Students interested in joining GUSR should contact the group via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.