Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern


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Annual disability carnival aims to build friendships

It took more than a few phone calls to convince Dan Carpenter to meet Shawn Brutt, who has Tourette’s Syndrome, for a slice of pizza during their junior year in high school.

“He called once a day, every day, ” Carpenter told visitors at the second annual Developmental Disabilities Day Carnival on Sunday that was sponsored by Special Olympics.

Carpenter said he thought he would be uncomfortable because of Brutt’s disability, but the two immediately hit it off and are still close friends, 12 years after their initial meeting.

“(Carpenter) pushed me to become a better person and to be honest and a hard worker,” Brutt said.

Building friendships was one aim of the carnival, which drew about 400 students and visitors from area agencies for the developmentally disabled to the Lakefill.

“This is how you get students to really interact when they feel uncomfortable,” said Randy Tosch, an Education junior who was the carnival’s co-chairman.

Although he remembers feeling uncomfortable in high school around the developmentally disabled, Tosch said spending more time with them helped him move past the awkwardness.

“People with disabilities might have a nice place to live, a good job and a nice family, but many have no friends,” Carpenter told The Daily after his speech. “We need to be able to connect with them.”

The interaction Tosch and Carpenter spoke of was apparent during the carnival, where Northwestern students ate popcorn and cotton candy, played carnival games and danced with visitors from seven area agencies for the developmentally disabled. Members of about 20 fraternities and sororities also painted faces and served food as part of Greek Week

“It’s just fun to get out,” said Tony Graves, 32, an athlete at Evanston’s Special Recreation Program, a city department that sponsors programs for people with mental, physical and emotional disabilities. “I like the music and the people seem really friendly.”

Grace Tabib, a Special Olympics publicity co-chairwoman who coaches track and field for the Special Recreation Program, said people must remember that disabilities do not make someone different from anyone else.

“Tony’s in a wheelchair and he’s been dancing around as much as anybody else,” said Tabib, an Education senior.

The carnival was founded last year by Tosch, McCormick senior Srikanth Reddy and Education senior Kate Bienen. This year, with Special Olympics, attendance almost doubled.

Although the carnival’s goal is to increase awareness and create friendships, organizers said they hope the merger will demonstrate that Special Olympics, which was denied A-status student group funding in November, has a wide impact on campus.

The carnival, along with the Special Olympics 5K Run/Walk on Saturday, kicked off a week of events leading up to the Special Olympics games next Sunday at Maine East High School, 2601 W. Dempster Street, in Park Ridge. Other events include a bar night at 1800 Club, 1800 Sherman Ave., and an A&O Productions screening of the film “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape.”

Also attending the carnival was University President Henry Bienen, who said he was pleased with the high turnout.

“I’m always proud of the students who get involved,” said Bienen, whose niece Kate organized the event. “College students want to give something back.”

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Annual disability carnival aims to build friendships