THE BLOG
01/09/2012 06:49 pm ET Updated Mar 10, 2012

Ending the R-word

I remember having a conversation with my elder sister, as a child, and mentioning something concerning "handicapped people." My sister, who has long had a passion for and works daily with people with disabilities immediately corrected me to say "people with handicap," explaining that "people come first, not their disability." I certainly didn't intend any offense with my syntax, but I've since used the appropriate people-first language, quite simply, because I know better. It is in that spirit that several members of the Shriver family, celebrities, and shoppers came together at a boutique in Santa Monica, CA last month to support those with disabilities and to fight prejudice.

Our friends at Project360, the apparel company founded by Patrick Schwarzenegger, Nick Sheinberg, and Kimberly Barth, hosted the event. Project360 uses fashion as a vehicle to generate social awareness for important global causes, one of which is Best Buddies International. Founded in 1989 by Anthony Shriver, the organization promotes leadership, employment, and social opportunities for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD).

Hundreds gathered at Fred Segal Couture and Madison in Santa Monica to shop, eat, and indulge in various offerings from the event sponsors, all in the name of charity. Ticket proceeds were donated to Team Maria Best Buddies, a fundraising team started in 2009 by Maria Shriver, Anthony Shriver's sister, which has since raised $600,000 for the organization. Project360 raised more than $10,000 for Best Buddies that evening, all of which will be donated to the organization. One of the most salient features of the event was a campaign to "End the R-word," the offensive term meant to disparage people with IDD, for which attendees contributed to a Public Service Announcement (PSA) produced by Project360.

Lauren Potter, an actress on the hit television series Glee, who has Down syndrome and is a board member of Best Buddies, co-hosted the event with Nancy O'Dell of Entertainment Tonight. O'Dell has been a board member of Best Buddies for more than 10 years and is intimately familiar with the organization's cause. Growing up with an aunt with Down syndrome, she witnessed the isolation felt by people with IDD due to prejudice, and the resulting cost to society, explaining that "the rest of the world misses out when they don't recognize the contribution that people with intellectual disabilities can make to our community."

Anthony Shriver founded Best Buddies to give people with IDD the opportunity to be socially integrated. The organization accomplishes this by partnering with schools, from middle schools through universities, and pairing people with IDD, known as "buddies," with their non-disabled peers to foster one-to-one friendships, integrated employment, and leadership development opportunities. Shriver founded the organization because he recognizes the value of teaching young people that everyone has a gift to contribute to society. He adds, "And I thought pairing people with IDD with young people who are at that same stage of their life, aspiring to great things - to develop a career, raise a family - sharing that bond together, would be something magical and special." Shriver, whose mother founded the Special Olympics, the athletic organization for people with IDD, explained that his parents instilled the values of service and community involvement early on in their family by engaging their children. He remembers, "The dialogue between them on the tasks that were put before them in building the Peace Corps and the Special Olympics always made them seem alive and stimulated... it's energizing and it makes you want to have that same kind of experience."

In addition to the funds raised by Project360, Fred Segal Couture and Madison agreed to donate 10% of the day's sales to Best Buddies. The PSA discouraging use of the R-word will be donated to Best Buddies and the Special Olympics, allowing the organizations to continue promoting the message of people first.

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