Best Buddies

My 11 year old granddaughter, Sweet Annie, started the first elementary chapter of Best Buddies in the SCS system at Richland Elementary! Their first big event with the Richland Redhawks Best Buddies team is the Friendship Walk. It is April 30, 2017 at 2pm at Shelby Farms in Memphis, TN. Not everyone has to walk, but every little donation helps to raise money to support the inclusion of all of our friends with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Some kids play ball, some cheer, some tumble and flip, but some choose a life of helping others, which is such an important but often overlooked gift! This is Annie’s talent. ☺

We’ll be there walking for inclusion!! By using this link, all monies raised will go towards the Richland Chapter’s donation to Best Buddies International.

Please join us at the BEST BUDDIES FRIENDSHIP WALK, the number one walk in the country raising awareness and funds to support individuals with intellectual and development disabilities (IDD). The walk plays a key role in funding Best Buddies programs dedicated to one-to-one friendships, leadership development, and integrated job opportunities.

Best Buddies is an international organization that promotes inclusion, friendship, job opportunities and social opportunities to people with disabilities of all kinds. In the high school and college programs they partner neuro typical children/young adults with those that have disabilities. The pair go to social gatherings together, like proms, sporting events, etc. giving those with disabilities the opportunity to experience things they would normally be left out of. They also have skill building courses for those with disabilities so that they can go out into the world and find jobs.

The elementary program is new to Best Buddies!!! They are realizing the importance of getting the younger generations involved in helping and embracing those with disabilities. Because it is a new addition to the international program, they wanted to start elementary programs to get the younger kids feet wet, so to speak. There are only 6 elementary schools that have started programs for Best Buddies in the state of Tennessee, one of them being the chapter that Annie started at Richland. Richland is the first elementary school in the Shelby County Schools system to start a Best Buddies Chapter, so they are essentially paving the way for ALL elementary schools in our school system to promote inclusion for all people with disabilities, both intellectual and developmental.

It is an incredibly heartwarming program!! So many of the parents of children with disabilities tell me how it has changed their child’s life. It’s given them a sense of belonging that they would otherwise not have had. The possibilities are endless for these kids with the help of Best Buddies!!!

The organization uses the money donated for training programs, material for chapter partnerships (for instance, they provide Richland Elementary with all of the flyers, material for events, fun communication skill building games, interactive games for the kids and they also send program managers from the organization to the school to help organize events. These program managers are paid through Best Buddies.) They also use the money to plan and set up for events, such as the Best Buddies prom March 4, 2017. They rented the hall, decorated, hired catering (some catering is also donated, I’m sure), all to allow the “Buddies” the true experience of prom. There are many ways to list, but this is a short overview of a few ways it is used.

This is an example of the love that is being spread at Richland Elementary:

The assistant principal got up and spoke at the first Best Buddies meeting and told a sweet story. I’ll share it now. He has been in several schools and has been around the education system for many years. One day, while doing an evaluation in a PE class at Richland he literally stopped the evaluation to watch the interaction between the special needs kids and the others in the class. He said he could not stop watching!!!! He put his evaluation board down and stared in awe at how beautiful the relationship was between them. It’s as if they were all the same, except better!! Because the neuro typical children were purposely dropping the ball, allowing the ones with disabilities to score, they were high fiving, laughing, encouraging and praising the disabled child, cheering after they touched home base….it was heartwarming beyond words. After the game he gathered them all up and praised them over and over. He talked to them and told them how proud he was to be a part of something so wonderful.

After he told the story at the meeting he publically acknowledged Annie and a few of her friends sitting with her because it was her class that he was talking about.

That’s what Best Buddies does! It promotes love!

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