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Thomas spreads message of respect

Posted Mar 21, 2013

CLEVELAND -- Joe Thomas and the Cleveland Browns helped spread a message of respect to the students at St. Mark’s School in Cleveland on Thursday.

CLEVELAND -- In recognition of World Down Syndrome Day, Cleveland Browns left tackle Joe Thomas joined students at St. Mark’s Elementary School to talk about having respect for all people, regardless of their differences.

Thomas was a part of the “Spread the Word to End the Word” assembly aimed at eliminating slurs and verbal taunts to those affected by Down syndrome and other developmental disabilities.

“It’s an important message to send to kids these days,” Thomas said. “I have a lot of friends and family that are involved with special-needs children and Special Olympics and I think it’s a great cause. It’s something that’s close to my heart and I’m excited to get out here and give back to the community in the offseason when times are a little bit slower around the football facility.”

Marty Keane, councilman for the City of Cleveland, presented a Council Resolution to St. Mark’s School in recognition of their work to eliminate derogatory words in schools. He also presented the school with a resolution from the State Senate. State Senator Michael J. Skindell, representative from the 23rd District in the 130th General Assembly, initiated that resolution.

“No matter what people’s differences are, we’re all human and we should all respect each other and treat each other the way we would want to be treated,” Thomas said. “That’s the Golden Rule and really applies. It’s a great thing to be teaching kids and I’m very proud and excited to be a part of it.”

At the assembly, Thomas was joined by members of the Barberton, Euclid, Solon and Cleveland Police Departments, who helped a Special Olympics athlete run a torch around the St. Mark’s gymnasium, signifying the Torch Runs that law-enforcement officers from Ohio, in the 49 other states and 80 countries around the world do to help raise funds and awareness for Special Olympics.

Officer Jeff Stanczek of the Cleveland Police Department utilized magic tricks to teach everyone in the audience about respect.

“Everybody’s special,” Stanczek said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re me, or you, or Joe Thomas. We’re all special. You can never say, ‘I’m better. I’m worse.’ We’re all special. If you go through life and you judge people and you put people down, one day, you’re going to get up and you know what kind of life you’re going to have? None.”

Brian Kazy is a parent of a St. Mark’s student affected by Down syndrome, and has championed the cause of helping eliminate the negative words used to describe those who are different. He also thanked St. Mark’s principal, Mrs. Karen Cocita, and pastor, Father John Miceli, for opening their school and curriculum to those affected by developmental and intellectual disabilities.

“We were all prepared for a regular, ‘normal’ child, and we were given something even better,” Kazy said of his family. “We were given someone with a disability. It is the best experience that you will ever have in your life, interacting with somebody who is not as fortunate as yourselves.”