Best Buddies keeps spirit alive amidst pandemic

Last+year+on+Oct.+24%2C+Best+Buddies+held+an+inclusion+night+where+bocce%2C+food%2C+music%2C+dancing+and+speeches+were+presented.

Catherine Contreras

Last year on Oct. 24, Best Buddies held an inclusion night where bocce, food, music, dancing and speeches were presented.

Best Buddies International is a nonprofit organization dedicated to establishing a global volunteer movement that creates opportunities for one-to-one friendships, integrated employment, leadership development and inclusive living for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). Special Education teacher Lisa Young is the sponsor of the school’s Best Buddies chapter for five years now.

All students deserve to be a part of our school and establish meaningful friendships.”

— Lisa Young

Young agreed to sponsor because she thinks it is important for the students in the SCB (School Community Based Program) and Autism programs to have an opportunity to develop friendships with their peers outside of their classes. She said students in the program are in a self-contained setting with a few other students throughout the day except for one elective class and lunch. “The ultimate goal of this club at Wootton is inclusion. We want all of our students to feel like a member of our Wootton community. All students deserve to be a part of our school and establish meaningful friendships,” Young said.

Senior Catherine Contreras works alongside Young as president of the club. Prior to joining Best Buddies her freshman year, Contreras said she had never met someone with a disability, however, Best Buddies seemed fun since it was all about making friends and spreading inclusion. Contreras said that after joining Best Buddies she became involved in the special education program and has made incredible friendships with amazing people. “This club has truly impacted me in ways I never thought it would. I learned so much about myself through this club. The friendships I’ve made have taught me so much about caring, giving, loving, embracing uniqueness and honestly has helped me find true happiness. As we all know friendships are between two people and even though we are an organization dedicated to people with IDDs, that does not mean it hasn’t taught or helped people without IDDs. The 28 friendships I’ve made through Best Buddies have changed my life. These friendships have turned my darkest days into my brightest moments and have truly had a major impact on me,” Contreras said.

Young still wants to keep the club running even with school going virtual. After school became online last spring, Young continued Best Buddies meetings by having themed weekly Zoom calls. Contreras also arranged for a virtual spirit week for Autism Awareness Month in April. Students were able to check in on Zoom each day of the week to take pictures and play games.

The first Best Buddies meeting of this school year was held Oct. 28. Young likes including different activities like karaoke, dance parties, cookie decorating, yoga, bingo, I Spy and more to keep the fun alive during this global pandemic. “This year we will host these meetings virtually again every other Wednesday,” Young said.