Special Olympics Minnesota athletes attend White House celebration for enactment of Rosa's Law
Danielle Liebl of Richmond and Roberta Blomster of Vadnais Heights invited to attend
MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. – Oct. 8, 2010 – Two Special Olympics Minnesota athletes will attend a White House reception this afternoon celebrating the enactment of Rosa's Law, a bill signed into law Tuesday that removes the term "mental retardation" from federal statutes and replaces it with "intellectual disability." Danielle Liebl of Richmond, Minn. and Roberta Blomster of Vadnais Heights, Minn. will accompany Special Olympics Chairman and CEO Tim Shriver along with eight other athletes, advocates and members of the Special Olympics International Board of Directors to the White House at the request of President Obama.
"Danielle Liebl and Roberta Blomster are both strong self-advocates for individuals with intellectual disabilities, and we're delighted they will be able to witness this historic step toward unity," said David Dorn, President and CEO of Special Olympics Minnesota. "The passing of Rosa's Law is a great move in the right direction, but we have more work to be done in the media, on our school yards and beyond."
Special Olympics championed the use of "people first language" by changing its own terminology from "mental retardation" to "people with intellectual disabilities" in 2004 after a call to action from its athletes to the movement's leadership. In 2008 Special Olympics launched www.r-word.org where the public can pledge to stop using the R-word in a derogatory manner and promote the inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities. Youth leaders at the 2009 Special Olympics World Winter Games in Boise, Idaho began the "Spread the Word to End the Word" campaign as a grassroots, youth-led movement in schools and communities across the United States and around the world to raise awareness of the hurtful nature of the word "retard(ed)" and to promote the positive impact people with intellectual disabilities can and do make in every community.
Liebl, 19, is a freshman at the College of St. Benedict in St. Joseph, Minn. and a 2010 graduate of ROCORI High School. Liebl has been active with Special Olympics Minnesota since she was 11, including the Athlete Leadership Program where she trained as a spokesperson and leader for the organization. Liebl competed in the Special Olympics 2006 USA National, was awarded the Minnesota State Council on Disability Youth Award in 2008 and was one of 20 athletes selected to attend the Special Olympics Global Youth Summit in 2009. During her senior year of high school, Liebl activated her peers toward acceptance and inclusion by forming a Partners Club® promoting social activity between students with and without intellectual disabilities, and traveled to Minnesota schools as an advocate for change through the "Spread the Word to End the Word" campaign. Liebl spoke with Minnesota representatives in Washington, D.C. in January at Special Olympics Capitol Hill Day, and this summer she interned at Special Olympics International and presented at the 2010 Youth Activation Summit as part of the Special Olympics 2010 USA National Games. Liebl is a member of the Special Olympics Project UNIFY® National Youth Activation Committee and plans to continue her advocacy work as she attends the 2011 Global Youth Summit in Athens, Greece as part of the 2011 World Summer Games.
Blomster, 35, joined Special Olympics Minnesota in 1993. A multi-sport athlete and coach, Blomster also participates in the Athlete Leadership Program and is a trained public speaker. Blomster was named Female Athlete of the Year by Special Olympics Minnesota in 1998, won gold at the Special Olympics World Summer Games in 1999, served as Speaker of the House for Special Olympics Minnesota's Athlete Congress in 2000 and attended an Athlete Leadership Program Conference in Atlanta, Ga. in 2002. Blomster was an active advocate for Minnesota's People First legislation, passed in 2005, which eliminated the use of "mental retardation" in state statutes and rules. She received a three-year appointment the Minnesota Governor's Council on Development Disabilities in 2005 and was re-appointed in 2008. Blomster has continued her self-advocacy work by participating in the 2007 Special Olympics Capitol Hill Day and writing a column on athletes and government for Spirit Magazine, a publication of Special Olympics International.
Rosa's Law was championed by Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) after meeting Rosa Marcellino and her family from Edgewater, Maryland. Rosa, born with Down syndrome, inspired the senator to take up the fight after being derogatorily labeled a "retard" by her classmates in 2009.
Special Olympics Minnesota offers children and adults with intellectual disabilities year-round sports training and competition. Through Special Olympics' athletic, health and leadership programs, people with intellectual disabilities transform themselves, their communities and the world.
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