Anti-bully talk kicks off Red Ribbon Week; group asks students to consider impact of their words

Heather Nyberg-Schlotzhauer

Beacon Correspondent

Red Ribbon Week is upon the schools this week and Reaching for Independence Day Program for Adults with Developmental Disabilities visited Redwood Preparatory School to kick the week off with an important message.

The theme of Red Ribbon Week is to promote kindness, stop bullying, and promote healthy safe choices. Reaching for Independence kicked this week off by giving a talk about bullying and specifically using the word "retard" and the effect on those directly and indirectly.

Bob Frawley, executive director of Reaching for Independence, said the three young men who also attended the bullying talk, emphasized that they were not disabled people.

"They are people just like you and me, but they have a disability," he said. "They are not stupid and they are not retarded. They have a disability and they can still think just like us, but what takes us from A to B directly may take several more steps to get there."

Frawley asked students to be aware of their words and how they can affect the whole environment around them.

"Many times people think they are just being funny and only affecting the person they are talking to, but all those around you that can hear can also be hurt by your words," he said.

Frawley was joined by three members of RFI who perform community outreach to make a difference. Stefan Thompson, 24, Rob Hegler, 33, and Danny Miley, 27. Each of the three has Downs Syndrome and has experienced unkind words or bullying. All three shared stories of their lives and the many talents they each have and provide to the community through the Day Program.

The program supports a total of 64 individuals, with 20 of them being staff working together to support 44 others.

Redwood Prep students asked a variety of questions about what activities they like, their favorite colors, what they do in the program, and if they have experienced bullying. In turn, the group asked the students if they knew anyone in their lives that had a disability and if they had experienced bullying. The majority of the students, parents, and staff raised their hands.

The wrap up for the program was Frawley asking the students who wanted to participate to take a pledge to not use the word "retarded," to respond when people do, and to have open hearts to help change the minds of others.

Throughout Red Ribbon Week, students wore themed outfits to reinforce their lessons.

Redwood Prep wore red on Monday. Tuesday brought their favorite team apparel or sweats to "team" up to make good, healthy, safe choices. Wednesday they mixed it up with crazy outfits to show being mean and bad choices don't mix with their lives. Today they are set to dress like rock stars to show they are rock stars at making the right choices. Friday they will be celebrating the season in costume while supporting those in need with a food drive.

Photo by Heather Nyberg-Schlotzhauer/Beacon

Redwood Prep students, staff, and parents gathered with the students to kick off Red Ribbon Week with a talk on bullying from Reaching for Independence (left to right) Stefan Thompson, Rob Hegler, Executive Director Bob Frawley, and Danny Miley.