Jerry Halboth is a SOWI athlete from Williams Bay. He has been a SOWI athlete for more than 20 years. For Spread the Word to End the Word Day in March, Halboth wrote passionately on Facebook about what Special Olympics and the elimination of the R-word mean to him. It has been reprinted here with his permission. It has been lightly edited for clarity.
By Jerry Halboth
Hey everyone. So I’m asking for your help. Special Olympics is doing a movement to Spread the Word to End the Word. The R-word. Nobody likes it. It’s very hurtful and degrading. We’re living in 2018, yet people still say it like it’s no big deal. Well it is a very big deal to us.
“So let’s make our voices loud and clear and strong and let’s end this hurtful word.”
Special Olympics gives people with physical and intellectual disabilities the opportunity to compete in sports to learn to grow. I was made fun of on a daily basis for having a disability. I was chased home about twice a week. I had everything from stones, rocks, sticks, and snowballs thrown at me all because I was different. But I don’t see my disability as being different, I see it as being an ability to compete in sports and have fun doing it while making friends of all levels all over the world.
I’ve been doing Special Olympics for 21 years and I’m in the best shape of my life. I love doing it and I love the friends I met as teammates, coaches, opponents, staff and agency managers worldwide. I love it all. I do everything from basketball, track and field, softball, flag football, and snowshoeing, with my specialty being track and field. For that 30 seconds or less that I’m running, I’m free. I don’t worry about what’s going on in the world. Nothing else matters. It’s very calming and therapeutic.
Now I’m an accomplished athlete who has been to the USA Games and other major competitions. But I couldn’t have done it without the help of Special Olympics. It’s a movement that brings people together to give them the opportunity for a fair chance to compete in sports. It helps us grow and learn how to deal with everyday situations. I want to help the younger athletes of today. Now there are almost 11,000 Special Olympics athletes in the state of Wisconsin and 4.3 million athletes worldwide with many more who have yet to join the movement. So let’s make our voices loud and clear and strong and let’s end this hurtful word.