Valdosta Daily Times

March 9, 2013

Valdosta Special Olympics Team wants to ‘spread the word’

Caitlin Barker
The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA — “Spread the word, to end the word,” is a new slogan created on behalf of the Valdosta Special Olympics Team and one that is proudly worn by athlete Todd Howard.

“I’ve known Todd Howard for 25 years or more and I think the world of him,” President/CEO of ClientTell, Pat Sullivan said. “Very proud of him.”

Howard, a Valdosta Special Olympics Athlete, was presented with a $1,000 check during a luncheon on Friday from ClientTell, Inc. to help fund the Valdosta Special Olympics and to give Howard the opportunity to spread his message of what the “R” word means to him.

“I want to change the ‘R’ word to mentally challenged,” Howard said.

Howard has been involved in the Special Olympics since middle school and has participated in various events during the Summer and Winter games.

“In the Winter, I play floor hockey and basketball. In May, I play volleyball and tennis and in July, it’s bowling, bocce and softball,” Howard said.

In 2009, Howard traveled to Boise, Idaho, to participate in the Special Olympic World Games. He represented Team USA and competed against citizens from Iraq, China and Mexico.

To date, Howard has won 41 medals and hopes to bring home more during this year’s Summer and Winter games. He also has been involved with the Grounds Department at Valdosta State University for 24 years and is the Vice President of the Young Adult Club.

Among his many supporters, Craig Center Theraputic Supervisor Tammy Crosby and representative Kaitie Sprangers, have stood alongside Todd during this entire process, especially during his new “R” word campaign, which began on March 6.

“It’s all about Todd, it’s not about us,” Crosby said.

The use of the “R” word has been a sensitive topic for several years and its correct phrasing such as mentally challenged or handicapped, seems to have been forgotten.

Howard’s goal in his eliminate the “R” word campaign is to educate and spread his message, about how hurtful the “R” word can be. He knows it will take some time but his dedication to encourage people to start using a different word will remain strong.

As Howard prepares for the Summer Olympic Games, he keeps in mind what really matters about the competition.

“It doesn’t matter if you get gold or not, just have a good time,” Howard said.

The Summer games will take place on May 17-19, in Atlanta. Todd will compete in volleyball and begins practicing on April 25.