Downingtown East football game on Fri. to inspire inclusivity

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Members of the Downingtown High School East Best Buddies wear hats provided by the Eagles Autism Foundation during the first Best Buddies mixer of the 2022-23 school year.

The Downingtown High School East chapter of Best Buddies International is partnering with the Eagles Autism Foundation to celebrate the school’s 10th annual “Spread the Word to End the Word” campaign on Friday, September 23. The celebration will kick off at 7:00 p.m. at Kottmeyer Stadium, prior to the start of the Downingtown High School East football game versus Kennett High School. The community is invited to join the student body in wearing white as a symbol of solidarity.    

The “Spread the Word” campaign is an ongoing global effort led by Best Buddies International and the Special Olympics to raise awareness about the hurtful effects of the “R-word,” and to promote inclusion for all people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD).  

Best Buddies International is a nonprofit that aims to build one-to-one friendships between people with and without IDD. The program offers social interactions while improving the quality of life and level of inclusion for a population that is often isolated and excluded. The East chapter meets regularly throughout the school year and the “Spread the Word to End the Word” football game is one of several events planned in 2022-23.  

The East football team will select two Best Buddies members to serve as honorary captains at the “Spread the Word to End the Word” game, and the team will include these students in all activities leading up to Friday night.  

“It’s a great feeling you get watching our football captains and Best Buddy honorary captains walk out under the lights together, hand in hand. It promotes a spirit of unity and sets a tone for the entire school year,” said Meghan Funderburg, Autism Support Teacher and Best Buddies co-advisor. 

Parent Sarah LaFrance did not know what to expect when her son Grey was selected as an honorary captain in 2019. “A quick smile from the sidelines and maybe helping with the coin toss? But, it ended up being so much more…He walked off that field that day proud…respected. We walked away knowing that for this community, the ‘Spread the Word’ football game is not just an event but a belief.”  

This year’s celebration marks the first “Spread the Word to End the Word” game in partnership with the Eagles Autism Foundation. The Foundation aims to support the highest quality and most impactful autism research and care to improve the lives of affected individuals and families now, as well as foster the acquisition of knowledge, technologies, and discoveries that will bring new opportunities in the future.

“I am excited and grateful for the DEI partnership with the Eagles Autism Foundation,” Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Justin Brown said. “Both of our organizations strive to create an environment where students can learn to be more inclusive and create a sense of belonging for all students.” 

The “Spread the Word to End the Word” football game will take place on Friday, September 23 at 7 p.m. at Kottmeyer Stadium. Tickets for all spectators are $5 and fans are encouraged to purchase in advance online at spicket.events/downingtown-east

 

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