BALTIMORE — Over 400 attendees arrived on site for Al Packer’s White Marsh Ford Casino Night on Saturday, May 18, 2013. They were greeted by Special Olympics Maryland (SOMD) athlete ambassadors, who were proudly donning various competition medals around their necks. The SOMD athlete ambassadors spent the evening mingling with guests in both the dealership showroom and the two tents containing casino game tables.
SOMD ambassadors were joined by a few other athletes— Baltimore Ravens Joe Flacco, Gino Gradkowski and Ed Dickson who spent the evening shaking hands and smiling for photos with Ravens fans.
The Casino Night program recognized all athletes in attendance— those with SOMD and those with the Ravens. After a SOMD athlete and his mother shared their experiences, SOMD’s President/CEO, Jim Schmutz, educated the crowd on the use of the “R” word (“retard”) and how it is hurtful to those with intellectual disabilities; the population served by SOMD.
During the program, Flacco, Gradkowski, Dickson and other guests were invited to sign a pledge to ban the “R” word, and support the “Spread the Word to End the Word” campaign. The goal of this campaign is to educate on the hurtfulness of the “R” word, no matter the context, and to remove it from people’s everyday vernacular.
“A woman came up to me and said ‘thank you for doing that,’” said Jim Schmutz, President & CEO at SOMD. “She responded by sharing that she uses the word “retard/retarded” all the time and never though anything of it. She grew up in the 70s and had no intent to offend anyone…she never will say this word again.”
Post-pledge signing, all of the athletes gathered together in General Manager Jerry Clark’s office for a group photo.
“My favorite part of the night was the interactions with Joe, Gino, and Ed back in my office,” said Jerry Clark, General Manager at Al Packer’s White Marsh Ford. The Special Olympics athletes clearly felt like rock stars, and isn’t that what it’s all about. People identify with a great charity and Special Olympics is definitely one of the best our store could hope to be involved in.”
This was the second annual Al Packer’s White Marsh Ford Casino Night, and a continuation of their support of SOMD. They also supported by sponsoring the MSP Polar Bear Plunge in January and the 2012 MDTA Tunnel Run.