‘Rory Staunton Was a Champion,’ A letter from the Special Olympics

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Embodied in his very being was an innate moral compass that compelled him to champion the rights of those less privileged financially, physically, mentally and emotionally. At the age of 9 1/2, Rory was vigilant in his efforts to bring a popular program of Special Olympics New York entitled “Spread the Word to End the Word” to his school and community.

The R-word is the word ‘retard(ed)’. The R-word hurts because it is exclusive. It’s offensive. It’s derogatory. The campaign asks people to pledge to stop saying the R-word as a starting point toward creating more accepting attitudes and communities for all people. Language affects attitudes and attitudes affect actions.

Convincing a school administration that the rights of the mentally challenged were paramount and understand that the label of the “R” word extended far beyond the mentally challenged community was only one of the many miracles Rory manifested in his short life. Rory knew that every person gives us something – that we learn from those who “know” less than us.

After a highly successful campaign that to this day is celebrated at his school and in his community, Rory took the next step and volunteered at Special Olympics New York’s local competitions with his fellow classmates. Children and their parents listened to Rory because his mind was incredibly keen and his heart pure – plus his smile was one from which no one could turn away.

As an award-winning Daniel Webster Debate Team leader, it wasn’t easy to do anything but listen to Rory. And, for each of us who listened, our lives were and remain enriched.

Special Olympics New York was lucky to have Rory as a friend. He left a mark on all of us who knew him.

Judy A. Dorn
Regional Director
Special Olympics New York
New York City Region