UNC’s Best Buddies organization, which pairs students with members of the Chapel Hill community who have intellectual and developmental disabilities, is gearing up for the ‘Spread the Word to End the Word’ campaign happening March 24 through March 28.

The campaign highlights how the derogatory use of the words “retard” and “retarded” negatively affects those with and also without disabilities. A national day of awareness was held on March 5.

Anna Ollinger, president of UNC Best Buddies, shares that the non-profit group is hoping to make the campaign even bigger in its third year on campus.

“Through this campaign, we are trying to show that language is really, really a powerful tool in shaping our perspective of those around us. When you use ‘retard’ and ‘retarded,’ you are just reinforcing negative stereotypes about people with disabilities that we are really trying to eliminate,” Ollinger says.

During the week of awareness, Best Buddies will be asking students to sign a banner as a pledge to no longer use the “R-word.”

“We are going to be handing out free Spread the Word to End the Word T-shirts, buttons and stickers to students,” Ollinger says. “We will be in the heart of UNC’s campus doing that throughout those days.”

On Thursday, April 3, “Breaking Bad” actor R.J. Mitte, who has cerebral palsy, is speaking on campus in the UNC Sciences Genome building at 8:00 p.m.

“He is going to be talking about disability rights and advocacy and just growing up, what it is like to have a disability and working with a disability.”

Beyond the Spread the Word To End the Word campaign, UNC Buddies currently has matched about 80 students with their community buddies. By spending time together, going to the movies, dining out, or just hanging out, the buddies build one-on-one friendships. Twice a month, the entire Best Buddies chapter comes together for a large group event.