Spacer
Best Buddies International
About Us
Work for Us
Contact Us
Donate
Events
Intellectual Disabilities
Programs
photogallery
Press Room
Our Store
sponsors
Volunteer

Receive our newsletter!
spacer

Best Buddies International
Middle SchoolsHigh SchoolsColleges
InternationalCitizense-BuddiesJobs
by AMANDA GILCHRIST
Best Buddies Texas
Share
Fall has officially kicked off at Best Buddies Texas! Our staff hosted over 170 Texas high school and college students at our annual local leadership training days in Houston and Dallas.

Our students learned a lot of valuable information and enjoyed sharing ideas with other chapter leaders. They are now ready to take all the insight gained at their leadership training and apply it to their chapters!

Houston held both training days at St. Thomas High School and Dallas trained at Highland Park High School and Plano Senior High School. We appreciate the administration at these schools for allowing us to use their facilities.

Best Buddies Texas would like to thank Chipotle for their generous food donation in both Houston and Dallas. Houston also received meal contributions from both Papa Johns and Einstein Bagels while Dallas was able to double up on Mexican with a donation from Taco Delight.

Most of all, thank you to all of our Texas students and teachers for taking the time to attend the local leadership training days. We look forward to sharing in your many successes this year!
Support our friendship programs in Texas: DONATE or VOLUNTEER at Best Buddies today.


by DESLAUNE BURNS
Best Buddies Texas
Share


Best, Best Buddies. Best, Best, Best Buddies! B-U-D-D-I-E-S, B-U-D-D-I-E-S!

Energy's high. Spirits high. A whirlwind of positivity encompassed the Indiana University Auditorium as nearly 1800 Best Buddies enthusiasts cheered at the opening ceremonies. Texas represented well with 46 students and advisors attending. What a great way to kick off the weekend for our student leaders!

This year reached the highest total participants. Our students had a chance to engage with fellow Best Buddies leaders from around the world and enhance their skills and knowledge, which they will bring back to their chapters.

This years leadership conference boasted a variety of gifted individuals from keynote speakers, actors, an interpretive sign artist, a cheer team and a talented singer. During the opening ceremonies, the keynote speaker was Best Buddies International Board Member Lauren Potter from the award winning TV show Glee. There were also several performances by Texas native Lisa Smith, an interpretive sign artist. Lisa has also performed at the Best Buddies Dallas Event Life is Sweet and will be showcasing her talent again at their annual gala event.

Two Texas chapters, Texas A&M and Oak Ridge High School were also highlighted as Outstanding Chapters for the 2012-2013 school year.
During the conference, the students gained valuable information about leadership and volunteerism. The sessions not only allowed them to collaborate and exchange ideas with their fellow state leaders but with students from around the globe in the World Cafe session.



According to many attendees, the World Cafe was one of the highlights of the weekend, which might have been neck and neck with the Seven Seas Karaoke night. So how does Best Buddies end a fantastic weekend? With a dance, of course! After the closing ceremonies, attendees danced the night away at the New Years Eve themed bash or played a game or two of bowling and billiards.

Not only did the students get to be involved in such an amazing event, three new staff members were introduced as well, Amanda Gilchrist and Deslaune Burns from the Houston office and Samantha Moran from the Dallas office. All-in-all, this years leadership conference personified what great things can happen when like-minded individuals come together with a common goal. With its highest attendance in 24 years, there is no limit to what the mission of Best Buddies can achieve.
Support our friendship programs in Texas: DONATE or VOLUNTEER at Best Buddies today.


by AMANDA GILCHRIST
Best Buddies Texas
Share
In 2004, Market Street in the Woodlands, TX established a "Change for Charity" program to raise funds for local charitable organizations in our community. The funds are generated from a portion of the coins collected from the parking meters at Market Street.

Our Best Buddies high school chapters in The Woodlands were selected as "Change for Charity" recipients this year. It is through such worthwhile programs that we as a community are able to acknowledge the efforts of those wonderful people who are making a difference.

Our Best Buddies chapters from Oak Ridge High School, The Woodlands High School, and The Woodlands College Park High School were presented with a check from the coins collected in the parking meters on May 16th at Market Street. The event was a great way to bring more awareness of our Best Buddies programs to the Woodlands community.

We greatly appreciate the support of the "Change for Charity" program!
Support our friendship programs in Texas: DONATE or VOLUNTEER at Best Buddies today.


by AMANDA GILCHRIST
Best Buddies Texas
Share
It's that time of year, the sun is hot and summer is near! Many of our chapters have been wrapping up the school year in style. Dobie High School said farewell to another great year in Best Buddies with an awesome end of the year party at the park.

There was an intensely competitive volleyball game, friends hanging out together on the swings, and lots of fun (and FOOD!) being enjoyed by all! Everyone enjoyed the yummy nachos, hotdogs, and cake.

The dedicated advisors, Mrs. Eddleman and Mrs. Kerr, offered a sweet send off for the graduating seniors. Each student received Best Buddies bears to always remember the fun times they had in the Dobie HS chapter. Everyone promised to stay in touch with each other over the summer months.

We encourage all of our participants to do the same!
Support our friendship programs in Texas: DONATE or VOLUNTEER at Best Buddies today.


by AMANDA GILCHRIST
Best Buddies Texas
Share
Clear Creek High School Prom
Clear Creek High School hosted an amazing prom event this month for all the Clear Creek ISD schools to attend. The prom was held at the Enchanted Gardens event center in Texas City, TX. This is the second year they used this beautiful venue. They had a great turn out and every school from the district was well represented. The chapter president of Clear Creek HS shared that they made a lot of money for their chapter, and plan to use the money to help pay for a flight to Leadership Conference in Indiana.

Everyone came dressed to impress. The girls looked so elegant in their formal dresses and the boys looked so dapper in their suits. The dance floor was packed with students dancing and singing to the music. Everyone had a great time socializing, making new friends, and making memories that will last a lifetime.

BBTX appreciates all of the students’ enthusiasm and support!
Support our friendship programs in Texas: DONATE or VOLUNTEER at Best Buddies today.


by DENISE BEN
Best Buddies Texas
Share
A girl’s wedding day is meant to be the greatest day of her life. Each detail is incredibly important, especially choosing those special friends who will stand next to you as you say “I Do” to your mate.

Sarah Moonesan Leifeste (Sarah M-L), a former Best Buddies chapter leader from Seven Lakes High School, invited her very best friends to join her at the altar. One of those bridesmaids just happened to be her high school buddy, Sarah Parisi.

The two Sarahs became friends through Best Buddies during the 2008-2009 school year. They were inseparable, spending a lot of time together at school and out and about in the community shopping, eating and watching movies.

In all Best Buddies friendships, the hope is that the yearlong matches will outlast Best Buddies mandates – transforming into more organic relationships between people with and without disabilities.

After Sarah M-L graduated from high school, she kept in touch with Sarah P. through calls, texts, and Facebook. Both girls kept busy schedules due to school and work, but remained committed to their friendship through the years.

In the summer of last year, Sarah M-L married her high school sweetheart Zakk Leifeste and Sarah P. was honored to serve as a bridesmaid. After the dress shopping was complete, Sarah P. attended all of the showers and remained by the bride’s side throughout the entire wedding day!

Sarah Moonesan Leifeste says, “She loved being involved and helping me with anything and everything I needed. It truly wouldn’t have been the same without her. Sarah is an amazing friend and I really can’t see my life without her. She is a good listener, fun to be around, and always supportive.” The feeling is clearly mutual.

Congratulations to Mr. and Mrs. Zakk Leifeste and thank you for sharing your inspiring story with BBTX!
Support our friendship programs in Texas: DONATE or VOLUNTEER at Best Buddies today.


by ANNE HOPTON-JONES
Best Buddies Texas
Share
The Best Buddies chapter at Kempner High School officially opened in mid-October, but one member of the chapter was already doing his part to represent inclusion.

Jonathan Shane is a member of the Kempner High School Varsity football team. He is also close friends with Hayden Buckles, a high school student with Down syndrome.

Below is a letter from Hayden’s father, Dale Buckles. Hayden’s family and the Kempner High School administration have been blown away by Jonathan and Hayden this year. We applaud both young men for exemplifying the mission of Best Buddies. Enjoy!

--

Coach Andrus,

I wanted to personally thank you, your staff, Jonathan Shane and the entire Varsity team for giving Hayden the opportunity to spend the day with the team, have lunch with them, watch a movie, take a nap, go out on the field with the coaches during warm-ups, be in the locker room, run out on the field with the team, all of the above. It was a big deal for Hayden and he had a great time. It was emotional for the family to see him out there! We all love Hayden very much!

It would be great if you could share with your team:

Hayden was born with Down syndrome. Down syndrome is the most common chromosome abnormality in humans and there is no cure. It is typically associated with a delay in cognitive ability (mental retardation and physical growth), and a particular set of facial characteristics.

The average IQ of young adults with Down syndrome is around 50, compared to children without the condition with an IQ of 100. In a nut shell, there are many levels of Downs from mild to severe that effect speech, I.Q., height, weight, etc. Hayden’s mental and speech capabilities are probably about right in the middle of the scale.

BUT NOT according to Hayden!!!!!!! He has been in public school since the beginning and he loves it. He will be 17 on November 20th. His greatest passion is video games, music, movies, art, and sports.

He is a young man who wants to be like all young men such as yourselves. He wants to be cool, dress cool, act cool, be on the field, drive cars, have friends and be normal. When you include him like you all have done, you are giving him that experience that he loves so much.

He is very competitive, he has a huge heart, he is very happy, but he can also be unhappy and get upset when things do not go right. He gets excited when the team is doing well and he knows when you are not.

You all have skills, abilities, talents, and athleticism at a level that Hayden will never have. He lives through you when you are out there. Being close to it is a thrill he will never forget. I know you all work very hard and have a passion for what you do.

Hayden has this passion as well! I know you give 110% every time you walk on the field. Hayden does the same! As you go through life, recognize where you have the opportunity to make a difference in a person’s life like you have done for Hayden and you will make friends for life.

Thank you again from the bottom of the Buckles’ hearts for being Hayden’s friends, teammates, protectors, buddies and classmates!!!!!

Sincerely,
Dale A. Buckles
Support our friendship programs in Texas: DONATE or VOLUNTEER at Best Buddies today.


by JEREMY MCANULTY
Best Buddies Texas
Share
Best Buddies Texas is thrilled to announce our participation in the exciting expansion of our programs. The 2012 and 2013 school year will be the first official year for Best Buddies International to launch its 8th and newest program, Best Buddies Promoters.

The program will be one of five Best Buddies programs offered in the state of Texas: Best Buddies High Schools, Best Buddies Colleges, Best Buddies Ambassadors, e-Buddies, and Best Buddies Promoters.

The Best Buddies Promoters program is an exciting way for schools that are unable to host our traditional friendship programs due to the lack of a special education population to still get involved in our world-changing mission.

Promoters chapters will host and support regional events, promote awareness campaigns, build community support, and create a network of support for their neighboring schools participating in friendship programs.

Green Hill School in Addison, Texas will be the first school to join our organization as a Promoters school. Green Hill is no stranger to being a driving force. In the Dallas area the school is well recognized for its commitment to excellence in community service, academics, the arts, and athletics. We are confident that they will also excel in educating and supporting the community when it comes to social inclusion for individuals with IDD.

If you or anyone you know works with or attends a school that is unable to host a Best Buddies friendship program but still has the desire to join us in the inclusion revolution, please reach out to your local Best Buddies office today for more information on our new opportunities for Promoters chapters.
Support our friendship programs in Texas: DONATE or VOLUNTEER at Best Buddies today.


by JEREMY MCANULTY
Best Buddies Texas
Share
Best Buddies Texas (Dallas) is proud to be sending three of our participants to experience world class advocacy training through the Buddy Ambassador program at the 23rd Annual Best Buddies Leadership Conference.

The conference will be held from July 20th through July 23rd at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana. The conference brings together thousands of Best Buddies participants, with and without disabilities, from around the world as they each receive specialized leadership training, exchange ideas, and tap into their true potential. Best Buddies Ambassadors is an exciting new program being offered by Best Buddies.

Participants in this program were selected after having completed an extensive application process in order to receive one of the limited spots available. Each ambassador in training will be given hands-on guidance toward becoming an advocate and a leader in their community.

Not only will this training boost each participants confidence, but such training could greatly increase their ability to pursue jobs, engage in social activities, and accompany Best Buddies staff at special events and as guest speakers.

Without further ado, it is our pleasure to introduce our three ambassador selections from Texas for the 2012 2013 school year!

Boyce Gunderlach
Boyce Gunderlach

Boyce is a buddy at our University of Texas at Austin chapter and he has been a part of Best Buddies for seven years! Boyce loves to hang out with friends, play softball, eat at restaurants and go dancing!

Boyce is excited to have been selected as a Buddy Ambassador because he believes in standing up for your rights and he says that he wants to learn more about writing speeches on a broad array of topics including encouraging people with disabilities to vote.

Being an ambassador is clearly going to change his life and impact the lives of everyone around him.


Gay Belew
Gay Belew

Gay has been a part of Best Buddies at the University of Texas at Austin for ten years!

Just this year Gay has already started practicing on her advocacy skills as she went and spoke to students at UT about ending the derogatory usage of the R word (retarded).

Gay is excited to improve her public speaking skills because she feels strongly about equal rights for people with disabilities.


Jeremy Criswell
Jeremy Criswell

If youve spent much time with Best Buddies in the Dallas area you might know Jeremy. Jeremy works full time at Dean Foods, has been an active buddy at our Southern Methodist University chapter for seven years and serves on Best Buddies Dallas Advisory Board.

Jeremy hopes that the Ambassadors program will help him to build on his strong desire to help people and allow him to become a bigger part of Best Buddies.

What a dynamic bunch! Please join us in congratulating these three incredible advocates!
Support our friendship programs in Texas: DONATE or VOLUNTEER at Best Buddies today.


by ANNE HOPTON-JONES
Best Buddies Texas
Share
Prom King David Boyle and Prom Queen Paryssa Ghanimi
On Saturday, April 21, 2012, the students at Clear Springs High School attended the senior prom. It is customary for the students to vote on the prom queen and prom king prior to the big night. As Best Buddies Chapter President Katy Alper stood in the audience with her classmates, the prom king’s name was revealed: David Boyle!

Katy was overcome with tears of joy. David Boyle is a high school senior and a proud member of Best Buddies at CSHS. David has been a buddy in the chapter for a few years but he never dreamed his fellow students thought so highly of him.

The Clear Springs High School students are on the right track with what Best Buddies is calling the “Inclusion Revolution.” David managed to standout amongst the other 600 students in his graduating class. That is quite an achievement and we are proud to congratulate him for his success!
Support our friendship programs in Texas: DONATE or VOLUNTEER at Best Buddies today.


by DENISE BEN
Best Buddies Texas
Share
Elsik Best Buddies
Alief Elsik High School first welcomed a Best Buddies chapter in 2004. Current Special Education Advisor Angie Piazza has supported the chapter for the six of the eight years it has been existence.

She has demonstrated extreme dedication to the chapter and the Best Buddies mission over the years.

The Elsik chapter has really excelled over the past few months. They have submitted thorough Friendship Updates on a monthly basis.

They did an excellent job promoting and raising funds for the Houston Friendship Walk. Their team earned a total of $777 in support of Best Buddies Texas. They also participated in the walk festivities by having a bracelet and keychain making activity booth.

The chapter also deserves recognition for maintaining their corporate affiliation with Schlumberger, which allows them to be the recipient of a semi-annual donation from the company each year.

EHS has a total of 10 matches. The chapter consistently fosters these relationships by hosting at least one or two activities per month. Activities range from parties in the classroom after school to a picnic in the park and an Easter egg hunt.

We are thankful for the efforts put forth by those involved in the Elsik Best Buddies chapter to spread the mission, and we are so happy to highlight their wonderful accomplishments this semester!

Advisors:
Angie Piazza and Pat Vick

Officers:
Donald Crown, Chi Duong, Kenny Tran Do, Yester Ayala, Oscar Manzanarez
Support our friendship programs in Texas: DONATE or VOLUNTEER at Best Buddies today.


by ANNE HOPTON-JONES
Best Buddies Texas
Share




Best Buddies Friendship Walk: Houston
On March 31, the Houston BBTX staff hosted the 4th Annual Friendship Walk at the University of St. Thomas. During this momentous event, State Director, Nicole Sonnier presented awards for Chapter of the Year, Top Fundraising Chapter and Buddy Pair of the Year.

Deer Park High School was selected as the Chapter of the Year. This chapter has flourished in the 2011-2012 school year under the leadership of a dedicated chapter president and the enthusiasm of their faithful advisors.

Kingwood Park High School received the 2012 Friendship Walk Money Cup for being the Top Fundraising Chapter. KPHS raised over $10,000 for the BBTX Friendship Walk. This was the chapter’s second year as the Top Fundraising Chapter and we so appreciate their support.

It is always tough to choose the Buddy Pair of the Year, but a certain friendship from the University of St. Thomas chapter stood out amongst the rest of nominees. Sarah Loeffler and Gertie Cuccerre have an incredible friendship.

The best part of this friendship is how they interact when no one is looking. Their friendship has really blossomed because of Best Buddies.

Congratulations to all of the winners and THANK YOU to everyone who supported the 2012 BBTX Friendship Walk!
Support our friendship programs in Texas: DONATE or VOLUNTEER at Best Buddies today.


by GABBY MEREDITH
Best Buddies Texas
Share


UST Takes the pledge!
Students at the University of St. Thomas took some time off from their studies on March 8 to make a pledge to stop the derogatory use of the word “retarded.”

The Best Buddies members provided a banner on campus and encouraged other students, faculty and staff to sign the pledge. The ‘Spread the Word to End the Word’ campaign was co-created by college students, Soeren Palumbo and Timbo Shriver as a way to raise awareness about the dehumanizing and hurtful effects of the word “retarded."

Best Buddies and Special Olympics joined the movement to promote inclusion of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

“Inclusion of people with special needs is critical to how we operate on campus,” said nursing student and Best Buddies member Sarah Loeffler. “I don’t believe any kind of discrimination whether it be race, religion or ability should be accepted in our community.”

Even people who had never heard of Best Buddies were eager to sign the banner, saying that the r-word is something they choose not to say regardless of taking the pledge.

“It’s just one of those things that is basic,” said Rene Dunlap, an administrative assistant in the Education Department at UST. “Everyone deserves respect.”
While the official ‘Spread the Word to End the Word’ day is March 7, stopping the use of the “r-word” is promoted all year round. To be one of the thousands of people who have taken the pledge online please visit www.r-word.org.
Support our friendship programs in Texas: DONATE or VOLUNTEER at Best Buddies today.


by ELIZABETH PRENTICE
Best Buddies Texas
Share
Outstanding Buddy Pair : Alisha and Tasha
The core of our Best Buddies programs are the one to one friendships that are developed between buddy pairs. Students in high school and colleges without disabilities are matched in friendships with their peers with intellectual and developmental disabilities, thus forming a buddy pair.

Best Buddies Texas would like to put a spotlight on one of our outstanding pairs, Alisha Keilers and her buddy, Tasha Johnson, from the St. Edward’s University chapter in Austin, Texas.

These two have an exemplary relationship. Alisha and Tasha have been friends for over a year now. They first met at the St. Edward's chapter's Match Party last fall and they have been friends ever since.

These two have a terrific relationship and BBTX is proud to acknowledge them. Here is what Alisha had to say about her friendship with Tasha:

What do you and your Buddy do for fun? 
Tasha and I usually go to the movies, out to eat, shopping, or just hanging out at my apartment with my friends. We like to do a whole bunch of things and it doesn’t matter what we do as long as we just hang out together.

BBTX: What is your favorite thing about your Buddy?
My favorite thing about Tasha is her heart. I love this about her because she absolutely loves people and always wants to help as many people as possible. Just being around Tasha I feel like makes me a better person.

BBTX: What makes your friendship special?
I believe Tasha is what makes our friendship special because like I mentioned before she is an awesome person to be around. She is ready to do anything with me and accepts me even if I make a mistake. I really enjoy Tasha’s friendship and am so happy we are buddies!

Alisha and Tasha have a special relationship which is recognized by all of the St. Edward's chapter’s members. These two set a great example for other Best Buddies members. Best Buddies Texas is very proud of these two and we hope that their relationship continues to grow!
Support our friendship programs in Texas: DONATE or VOLUNTEER at Best Buddies today.


by ELIZABETH PRENTICE
Best Buddies Texas
Share
Dallas Buddy Pair enjoyed getting dressed up for the lavish event.


Participants enjoy a dance


ancing With the Stars – Winter Formal Edition
On December 3, 2011, Best Buddies Texas threw a Winter Formal for all of the Dallas participants. The event was held on the 39th floor of City Place Conference and Events Center and overlooked the beautiful skyline of Dallas. The space was generously donated by our friends at Dean Foods.

This was a magical night for the 100 buddies, peer buddies, and advisors from Dallas chapters who attended the event.

The night started out with a delicious steak dinner, donated by Outback Steakhouse, and drinks, donated by Aramark. Everyone raved about the meal and by the end of the night there was no food to spare.

Finally, it was time to dance! DJ Dave played all the right songs and, from start to finish, there was never a lull on the dance floor.

The best part about this night was the look on each of the participants’ faces as they were dancing. For some of these students, this was their very first time attending an event without their parents.

There were two girls who had never even been to a dance before. Their parents were anxious to leave their daughters but the BBTX staff assured them that the girls would be safe and that they would have a great time. By the end of the night, the Dallas staff members were holding back tears because these two girls had still not left the dance floor.

The Winter Formal was a phenomenal hit and BBTX cannot wait to host another dance!

BBTX would like to thank our board members, Dean Foods, Outback Steakhouse, Aramark, and Dave King for donating and volunteering for this event. Without you, this event could not have happened!
Support our friendship programs in Texas: DONATE or VOLUNTEER at Best Buddies today.


by ANNE HOPTON-JONES
Best Buddies Texas
Share


On December 3, Best Buddies Texas volunteers coached six of our high school buddies with intellectual and developmental disabilities in speech composition and delivery.

Throughout the day, the buddies were invited to share their Best Buddies experiences, which they would later craft into a speech with the support of their volunteer guide.

Subjects ranged from their favorite chapter events to ending the derogatory use of the R-word.

Following a brief lunch break, donated by Chipotle, the buddies rehearsed and finalized their speeches with the coaches.

Family members were invited to join the group for the last hour to encourage the buddies. BBTX’s Advanced Buddy Ambassador Addie Lasseigne served as a mentor and showcased the speech she created at the 2011 Best Buddies International Leadership Conference.

Once Addie completed her speech, the other buddies took to the stage. They all earned rave reviews for their presentations.

To wrap up the occasion, all of the new Buddy Ambassadors received certificates of completion.

In the future, they will all be called upon to act as ambassadors at various BBTX events.

Congratulations to the following:
Alex Glaad (Clear Creek High School)
CJ Ledezma (Lamar High School)
Amber Easley (Katy High School)
Aryn Romero (Lamar High School)
Ethan Brillon (Klein Collins High School)
Megan Allred (Kingwood Park High School)

Support our friendship programs in Texas: DONATE or VOLUNTEER at Best Buddies today.


by ANNE HOPTON-JONES
Best Buddies Texas
Share
Texas Buddy Ambassador Addie Lasseigne at the event
In an effort to raise awareness about disability issues and promote positive perceptions about the diverse contributions and abilities of those with disabilities, the Houston Mayor's Office for People with Disabilities kicked off their 3rd Annual Disability Awareness Month celebration on Friday, October 7, 2011 at the Metropolitan Multi-Service Center.

Best Buddies Texas was honored to participate in this event, and our Buddy Ambassador, Addie Lasseigne, was a guest speaker.

Addie confidently expressed the importance of acceptance for people with intellectual disabilities by speaking about her life before joining Best Buddies at Spring High School.

The support and encouragement Addie received through Best Buddies eventually led her to become the Buddy Director for the Spring High School chapter.

As a Best Buddies Texas Buddy Ambassador, Addie has spoken at numerous events and was even invited to meet Vice President Joe Biden in 2010.

The audience at the Houston Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities celebration was incredibly moved by Addie’s story of courage and triumph.

Best Buddies Texas greatly appreciates the Houston Mayor’s Office for including us in this momentous event.
Support our friendship programs in Texas: DONATE or VOLUNTEER at Best Buddies today.


by ELIZABETH PRENTICE & DENISE BEN
Best Buddies Texas
Share
Texas students Madison, Alexis, and Kay pose at the Academy Awards themed dance at conference
Texas Buddy Ambassadors Austin, Addie, and Boyce
“If anyone tells you that you can’t do something, go out there and prove them wrong!” said Lucas, one of the many inspiring Buddies and Kandoo Band member, who attended our 22nd annual Best Buddies Leadership Conference at Indiana University this summer.

The conference was attended by students, staff, and advisors from around the world. Best Buddies Texas represented the state well, having 46 student leaders and Buddy Ambassadors, as well as 5 staff members in attendance. It was an inspiring weekend for all involved!

This year, the conference theme was “The Big Picture”. The goal was to broaden students’ scope of Best Buddies and help them to realize that their involvement spans far beyond their individual chapter.

Every Best Buddies participant is a part of a huge international movement that is molding society into a more inclusive environment for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

The weekend comprised of leadership training for students and Buddies. Staff conducted multiple education sessions with the objective of helping high school and college students have a solid understanding of why Best Buddies is in existence and how they can make our mission a success.

Students also had the opportunity to exchange ideas and collaborate with each other about ways to enhance their chapters and carry out the mission in their communities.

In addition to the educational portion of the weekend, there was plenty of fun mixed into the agenda! A variety of entertainment and social events kept attendees pumped up and excited throughout conference.

There was musical entertainment by Kandoo Band at open ceremonies, a dance, bowling, pool party, karaoke, and closing ceremonies that featured a variety of inspirational speeches from Buddy participants.

On the final day of conference, Best Buddies Texas participants were treated with encouraging and impactful speeches from our own state Buddy Ambassadors. Three Buddies, Austin, Addie, and Boyce shared speeches that they had created in their own sessions throughout conference.

The three spoke about their feelings about the use of the r-word and how Best Buddies has changed their lives for the better.

We are proud to have had these Buddies and all of our other student participants represent Texas at this international event! We can’t wait to see the far reaching impact our student leaders and Buddy Ambassadors will make around our great state this year!
Support our friendship programs in Texas: DONATE or VOLUNTEER at Best Buddies today.


by ELIZABETH PRENTICE
Best Buddies Texas
Share
One of the successful Buddy Pairs that makes the UT chapter great!
UT College Buddy Director Erica Brody (center) congratulated by Best Buddies Founder Anthony Kennedy Shriver (to her left)
Every year, Best Buddies International chooses one terrific college chapter to receive the Most Outstanding Chapter award.

The award is announced at our annual Leadership Conference and this year, Texas was hoping to take the plaque home with us.

The group of 50 Texas students and staff in attendance sat in the auditorium during opening ceremonies, anxiously waiting for our founder, Anthony Kennedy Shriver, to announce the awards for the 2010-2011 outstanding chapters.

You could hear the Texans yelling and clapping from a mile away when we heard him announce, “And the Most Outstanding College Chapter IN THE WORLD is…The University of Texas at Austin!”

We are so proud of the UT chapter for this amazing accomplishment. They are so deserving of this honor. They boasted over 200 chapter members.

The UT chapter provided a total of 75 buddies with intellectual and developmental disabilities with a network of friends without disabilities through chapter events and one-to-one relationships.

The social integration achieved for their buddies and disability awareness brought to campus is commendable.

The University of Texas is a large school with a diverse population of students. This year, the College Buddy Director, Erica Brody, made a goal for the chapter to become more visible on the campus of 50,000 students.

Through their chapter events, word of mouth, and hard work the chapter achieved this goal and became very well known throughout the student body. The UT Student Government even awarded them with two prestigious awards: Best Service Organization and Most Outstanding Organization!

The chapter hosted many terrific events this year. You can look at the online scrapbooks of some of these events here: Matching Party, R-Word Week, and Buddy Prom.

One of their most impressive events was called “Real Texans Don’t Use the R-Word”. The week-long occasion sprung from the celebration of Texas Independence Day and combined various activities that promoted social inclusion and respect for individuals with disabilities - Spread the Word to End the Word, and their Friendship Walk – which had over 300 attendees and earned over $7,500 for Best Buddies Texas.

Best Buddies Texas could not be more proud of The University of Texas’ Best Buddies chapter. The officers and chapter members worked extremely hard to create an inviting social network for their buddies.

We hope that someday our communities as a whole will be as inclusive and welcoming as the UT chapter is. Keep up the great work, UT! We cannot wait to see what you accomplish in the 2011-2012 school year!
Support our friendship programs in Texas: DONATE or VOLUNTEER at Best Buddies today.


by DENISE BEN
Best Buddies Texas
Share
One of the ten cook off teams excited to be part of the festivities.
Buddy Ambassador Michael and UST Chapter President Daniel enjoy the some good food
On Sunday, February 20th, The Ginger Man Pub in the Rice Village hosted its 3rd annual One Pot Cook Off benefiting Best Buddies Texas.

This was the third time the Houston bar and BBTX teamed up to raise money for Best Buddies local high school and college programs, which provide people with intellectual disabilities the opportunity for one to one friendships and leadership development.

Ten teams cooked a variety of stews, soups, and chilis to compete for the top prizes of Peoples Choice and Judges Choice awards. Best Buddies Texas appreciates all cooks that were involved to make this event so delicious and successful!

Money was earned through the five dollars charged per person to taste cook off entries and to get entered into the pubs large raffle. Raffle give-aways were comprised of over 100 items that were donated from local businesses.

We are sincerely thankful for all the generosity shown in donating so many amazing prizes. Over $3,000 was raised for Best Buddies Texas!

We had great participant representation at the event too! Teachers and parents from our programs came out to enjoy the cook off, as well as Buddy Pairs from University of St. Thomas. UST chapter Buddies, Torrence and Greg, attended with their friendship matches - college students and Best Buddies officers, Daniel and Ben. Best Buddies former Board Member and Buddy Ambassador Michael Fry was also in attendance.

Again, Best Buddies Texas wants to thank all involved in making the cook off a success! We want to give special thanks to Robert Ellis and Clint Broussard for providing music entertainment! We are moved by the Ginger Mans dedication to putting on this wonderful event for our benefit!
Support our friendship programs in Texas: DONATE or VOLUNTEER at Best Buddies today.


Tell Your
Friends
About This
Share

Adam and his Peer Buddy, Alex, hit it off at the Match Party
by ANNE HOPTON-JONES
Best Buddies Texas

It was one of the most exciting days of the year for the students at Clear Creek High School in League City! On Sept. 23rd, the chapter hosted their Match Party, where student participants in Best Buddies were matched in their one-to-one friendships.

The Best Buddies chapter celebrated the newly formed friendships with an exciting evening filled with games and prizes. The event kicked off with an informational meeting for all parents of the students involved in the program.

This is the second year that CCHS has hosted a parent meeting and it has really enhanced the quality of the chapter. “Parent support is crucial,” states Chapter President, Ryan Ward.

After the parent meeting, members gathered to find out who they would be matched with for the year! Once everyone was matched, the party evolved into a night of fun and laughter. Prizes were awarded to members based on their arrival time. The top prize was a Putt-Putt gift card for a lucky Buddy Pair!

The most significant moment for the officers of the chapter was the arrival of Adam Cronin. Adam is a Buddy with disabilities and he had previously voiced his concerns over being matched with a female Peer Buddy (one of the general education students). While the officers were well aware of Adam’s apprehension, they knew that they had found him the perfect match.

As soon as Adam saw his Peer Buddy, Alex Beck, he was elated! “Adam was nervous at first about being paired with a girl but as soon as they met there wasn’t a minute of silence between them. The two got along extremely well and there is a lot of potential for a great friendship,” says Ward.

Best Buddies Texas is proud to support high schools like Clear Creek that provide friendships for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.


Tell Your
Friends
About This
Share


Taylor HS students excited to become Peer Buddies


Taylor HS Officers: Treasurer Barbara Bravo, Historian Karla Bravo; Chapter President Stephanie Santana, and Special Education Advisor Amy Campbell
by DENISE BEN
Best Buddies Texas


Best Buddies chapters all around Houston are back in action hosting Organizational Meetings designed to promote Best Buddies within their schools.

General education students gather in meetings to learn more about the Best Buddies program of matching students like themselves without disabilities in friendships with their peers that do have intellectual and developmental disabilities in the hopes of creating a more socially inclusive high school.

At one particular chapter meeting, Stephanie Santana, Chapter President of James E. Taylor High School, shared not only the impact her Buddy has had on her life, but the influence of her relationships with students with disabilities on her creative writing.

Stephanie spoke to interested students about her inspiration for joining Best Buddies, her brother Leo, who has Cerebral Palsy.  She then spoke of her beloved relationship with her Buddy of one year, Kevin. 

After telling anecdotes of her various interactions with her Buddy, Stephanie then preceded to share a poem she was inspired to write about her experiences with people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

The poem, from which an excerpt is provided below, speaks to the truth of the Best Buddies mission.  Life long friendship and loyalty are just two uplifting themes of Stephanie’s heart felt poem….  

“You might be different, but precious inside. You’re like an angel, coming from the sky. I know you’ll be different from the rest of my friends, you’ll never make excuses, and you’ll always be there. I’ll hold on to your hand, and you’ll hold on to mine, and like this together, we’ll walk this new path. We’ll share special moments, which will last forever in our hearts. You’ll be my buddy, my angel, my friend. You’ll be the one I’ll never forget…”


Share This Story W/Your Friends Share

Dylan and Scott Ensell are honored after leading the Friendship Walk
by DENISE BEN
Best Buddies Texas


Dylan Ensell is a Best Buddy participant and 11th grade student with disabilities at Mayde Creek High School in Katy, TX.  This spring, Dylan became the first recipient of the Most Supportive Participant.  This honor is awarded to the participant who does the most to spread the Best Buddies mission of friendship, leadership and jobs.

As a Buddy participant Dylan has been active in helping to fundraise to strengthen Best Buddies Texas programs.  Each year participants and friends of Best Buddies Texas fundraise in support of the state programs.  For the second year in a row, Dylan was the top individual fundraiser for the Friendship Walk in Houston.

Dylan and his father, Scott Ensell, enthusiastically spread the word about the Best Buddies mission of friendship to family and friends.  This effort earned donations in Dylan’s name, totaling $5,750. Dylan and his father have been inspired by the Best Buddies mission.

Scott Ensell notes that it is important to have Best Buddies in the schools because “it gives children with special needs a chance to interact with people other than just their teachers and the aides at school.  The relationships developed with their peers without disabilities help to keep them motivated and to enjoy life.”

Mr. Ensell finds great value in the fact that Best Buddies promotes equality and friendship for his son Dylan, and all students with intellectual and developmental disabilities.  This appreciation for Best Buddies has translated into major success in the Ensells’ fundraising efforts and has allowed Best Buddies Texas to strengthen the friendship programs in Katy.

When asked about their favorite Best Buddies “moment”, the answer is the very event that they work so hard to fundraise for – the Friendship Walk.   They enjoy the opportunity the walk provides for families and students with and without disabilities to rally together from all around Houston. At the 2010 Friendship Walk, Dylan and his dad led the walk around the University of St. Thomas campus.

Best Buddies Texas has events throughout the year and is always looking for community volunteers. Contact Texas@bestbuddies.org to find out more and you could be the “Most Supportive Participant” in 2011!


Share This Story W/Your Friends Share

Students show their BBTX pride at opening ceremonies.


Performer Jay Sean invites Buddy Ambassador on stage.


The 2010 Texas student leaders.
by LIZ PRENTICE
Best Buddies Texas


As the school year begins once again, I can’t help but reminisce on the wonderful summer that Best Buddies Texas had.  The clear highlight of the break was the Best Buddies International Leadership Conference. Held annually, it was hosted at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana from July 23-26.

This was my first LC and I was lucky to spend it with 35 student leaders from across Texas. We had Best Buddies representatives from eleven different countries this summer, as well as hundreds of students from around the US.

After the students arrived on Friday night, we made the trek across campus for the Opening Ceremonies. This year, the theme of LC was “Building our Future” and we were excited about it!

Staff and students were all inspired by the speech made by our founder, Anthony Kennedy Shriver. The next two days student leaders attended a variety of trainings to learn about the Best Buddies mission of friendship and how to bring the Best Buddies mission back to their communities upon returning to their schools.

There were also courses for Buddy Ambassadors and Buddy Directors from various schools around the world that helped to teach our participants with intellectual disabilities to be outstanding leaders and advocates in their schools and communities.

It is remarkable how much our local Texan leaders grew over the weekend. They shared experiences, traded ideas, and continuously inspired one another to build their chapter better than last year. The conference wasn’t all business though. Every evening there were on- campus social activities for students to attend including karaoke, movie nights, a dance, and even a private performance from pop star Jay Sean at opening ceremonies!

The conference wrapped up on Sunday night with our Closing Ceremonies where we were treated by a surprise dance performance by some BB staff; members of the company included our own Houston Program Managers, Denise Ben and Anne Hopton-Jones!

The night’s programming also included tear jerking and powerful speeches from some truly inspiring Buddy Ambassadors. The Buddies shared their experiences about having disabilities and being involved in Best Buddies friendships, and also shared with us their many hopes and dreams for the future. Their speeches only reinforced the fact that people with intellectual and developmental disabilities have astounding abilities.

The 22nd annual Leadership Conference was a huge success. All participants left with their minds opened and their hearts enriched. We are ready to “Build our Future” with Best Buddies and we are looking forward to an outstanding year!


Share This Story W/Your Friends Share
by ANNE HOPTON-JONES
Lead Program Manager | Best Buddies Texas

Best Buddies Texas is dedicated to providing leadership opportunities for our participants with intellectual disabilities. The Buddy Ambassador program is in its second year of public speaking and advocacy training. Our top leaders with intellectual disabilities are selected to attend trainings and learn how to give their first public speech.

Best Buddies Texas congratulates our newest Buddy Ambassadors! These amazing self-advocates presented their very first speech in front of a crowd of 800 people at the 2010 Best Buddies Friendship Walk on April 10 at the University of St. Thomas. We couldn’t be more proud of these dynamic leaders.



Callie Hoots


Alex Gladd


Chris Ledezma


Krystal Stanford


Alissa Bailey
Callie Hoots
Katy High School

Callie is the Buddy Director (chapter officer who represents the students with intellectual disabilities)at Katy High School. Callie takes her job very seriously. Callie’s first speaking engagement was at the Friendship Walk . She is excited to speak at other engagements this summer.


Alex Gladd
Clear Creek High School

Alex is the first Buddy Ambassador from Clear Creek High School. He was selected as a Buddy Ambassador because of the progress he has made in his speaking skills in the last two years. Alex and his Peer Buddy Chelsea spoke about their special bond during the Friendship Walk.

Chris Ledezma
Lamar High School

Chris is a Buddy at Lamar High School. He recently transferred to LHS from the Morton Ranch High School Best Buddies chapter. He has quickly become one of the most popular Buddies because of his outgoing personality and charisma.

Krystal Stanford
Deer Park

Krystal is a Buddy at Deer Par k High School. She enjoys presenting at Best Buddies meetings and events. In an effort to spread awareness about the Best Buddies mission, Krystal went door to door in her neighborhood to raise funds for the Friendship Walk.

Alissa Bailey
University of Houston

Alissa is a University of Houston Buddy. Alissa gave her first speech at the Best Buddies Texas Buddy Ambassador training in November 2008. In March 2010, Alissa presented at the Spread the Word to End the Word rally at The Center in Houston.

Best Buddies Texas is looking for volunteer speech coaches for our summer trainings.

Please contact Texas@bestbuddies.org or call (713) 525-8475 if you are interested.


Share This Story W/Your Friends Share

Representative Ellen Cohen signs the pledge to support the elimination of the derogatory use of the r-word.


Buddy Ambassador Alissa Bailey speaks about the importance of respect and sensitivity.


Kent Loftin, Emory Black, Eva Aguirre, Alissa Bailey, Rep. Ellen Cohen, Bill Dykes

by KAREN CAMPBELL & KENT LOFTIN
Volunteer & State Director | Best Buddies Texas

HOUSTON -- Best Buddies and The Center (formerly The Center Serving People with Mental Retardation) hosted a rally March 5 to challenge and educate Houston about the hurtful use of the “R-word.” State Representative Ellen Cohen presented a framed proclamation to the two organizations and signed a pledge to end the use of the r-word.

More than 200 individuals gathered to offer their support of the pledge and hear from speakers advocating for positive terminology when addressing people with intellectual disabilities. Alissa Bailey and Emory Black, residents of The Center and Buddy Ambassadors, both spoke to the pain and frustration they endured in childhood because of name-calling. Each underscored their desire to end the use of the harmful term.

In her brief remarks, Rep. Cohen reminded the crowd, “While I whole-heartedly agree that we should rid our vocabulary of harmful terms such as this particular R-word, I want to encourage us all to keep other R-words in frequent use. Each resident and buddy here is remarkable. You have not only my respect but the respect of your family and friends. And finally, we must never lose the fact that we are each responsible for one another.”

The Houston rally was only one of hundreds of rallies across the state and nation “spreading the word to end the word”. March 3rd was a national day of action and Best Buddies chapters held events in more than twenty Texas cities.

Across the U.S., students are leading events designed to solicit pledges not to use the “R-word”. Throughout the week, people were asked to take the pledge online at www.r-word.org, or sign a banner or pledge sheet at a local event. Supporters set a goal to reach 100,000 pledges and 120,000 pledges have been collect so far.

Respect and dignity for people with intellectual disabilities is an important part of the Best Buddies mission. Each March, Best Buddies month, our participants are encouraged to become advocates for people with intellectual disabilities. Check back to read more about other rallies and awareness events taking place this month.


Share This Story W/Your Friends Share


Ainsley Spencer and her BEst Buddy Haley.


Ainsley and Haley at the chapter Halloween party.
by ANNE HOPTON-JONES
Lead Program Manager | Best Buddies Texas


Buddy Director Ainsley Spencer is a shining star in the Deer Park High School chapter. She exudes personality and her vibrant spirit is contagious.

During her time in Best Buddies, Ainsley has blossomed as an exemplary Buddy and student leader. It is hard to imagine the last three years of DPHS Best Buddies without Ainsley. However, the path to Best Buddies was filled with plenty of obstacles.

Ainsley and her family happily resided in New Orleans, LA until Hurricane Katrina swept through the city, leaving the Spencers desperate for a new location to call home. Before moving to Houston, Ainsley attended a private Catholic school that catered to the needs of children with developmental disabilities. Naturally, Ainsley’s parents were hesitant to send her to public school in Houston.

Friends urged the Spencers to consider Deer Park High School as an option. Ainsley took one look at the public high school atmosphere and fell in love!
After witnessing the drastic changes in a “post-Katrina” New Orleans, the Spencers’ temporary stay in Houston turned permanent.

Ainsley’s parents were thrilled with the idea of Best Buddies. Ainsley joined during her sophomore year and is currently in her fourth year in the program. She was an essential element in Best Buddies last year, as her Peer Buddy, Chapter President Haley Florrow, strived to rebuild the chapter.

The mission was successful and the DPHS chapter is currently one of the strongest in Texas. Brenda Spencer proudly affirms that because of Best Buddies, her daughter was able to participate in things she “never dreamed possible and to do them with confidence, joy and pride in herself!”

In September of 2009, over 100 DPHS students attended the Best Buddies interest meeting, ensuring that all the Buddies at DPHS would have a Best Buddy this year! Ainsley proudly spoke about the importance of Best Buddies and challenged each student to become dedicated participants. Ainsley is an asset to the Deer Park High School chapter and will forever be an advocate for the Best Buddies mission of friendship.


by DENISE BEN
Lead Program Manager | Best Buddies Texas

Westside High School hosted their first school wide Disability Awareness Week. This is a major accomplishment for a school only in its second year of existence as a Best Buddies chapter.

The project to hold the week long awareness event was overseen by Special Education Advisor Julie Hoffland. Julie is a tireless advocate for the social inclusion of student with intellectual disabilities and has spearheaded the development of the Best Buddies mission of friendship at Westside.

The Disability Awareness Week also included a launch of the Ban the “R-word” global campaign which is being celebrated during the month of March. Each day of the week Best Buddies Peer Buddies and Buddies worked a table set up in the commons to get students to sign a petition pledging to “support the elimination of the derogatory use of the r-word from everyday speech and promote the acceptance and inclusion of PEOPLE with intellectual disabilities.” The chapter was able to acquire 1,100 signatures on the petition to end the use of the R word!

Join the ban the "R-word" campaign & make your pledge by clicking on the pic.

Best Buddies members decorated and displayed posters around the school of varying designs, all promoting the message of “seeing the ability, not the disability” and “I see you” - an African mantra adopted by Best Buddies that expresses the acceptance and recognition of any and everyone as they are.

Westside kicked off an important time of year for Best Buddies with an amazing week of activities. Best Buddies Texas is proud of Westside and their initiative to bring acceptance and inclusion for students with intellectual disabilities to the Westside community. The chapter is a shining example to the more than sixty Best Buddies Texas chapters preparing their awareness campaigns this month.

The Westside Best Buddies chapter.
 


Share This Story W/Your Friends Share

Addie & Anne take a break from lobbying to tour DC


Anne & Addie take a picture with Vice President Joe Biden after Addie explained the importance of Best Buddies
by ANNE HOPTON-JONES
Lead Program Manager | Best Buddies Texas


Washington DC was a little friendlier this week when nearly 300 Best Buddies and Special Olympics participants fanned out across Capitol Hill to lobby for the Eunice Kennedy Shiver Act of 2010.

Best Buddies and Special Olympics presented a united front in honor of the late Eunice Kennedy Shiver, who was a vigorous advocate for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Best Buddies Texas Buddy Ambassador Addie Lasseigne was among the selected participants charged with the task of introducing this vital piece of legislation to federal representatives.

As a Best Buddies Texas staff member and former Best Buddies and Special Olympics volunteer, I was invited to accompany Addie on this rewarding mission!

On Wednesday, January 27, Best Buddies and Special Olympics descended on Capitol Hill with a powerful message. Addie, who was also celebrating her 19th birthday, and I were among a small group of participants invited to meet with Vice President Joe Biden! We were honored and humbled by this assignment.

In Addie’s words, “This is so awesome! We are fabuloso!” Addie certainly had no qualms about meeting the Vice President. I, on the other hand, was a nervous wreck!

Our meeting with Vice President Biden at his 19th Century home was both enlightening and successful. He was very responsive to our purposeful mission. Addie and I left with a feeling of great accomplishment.

When asked to recall her favorite memory, Addie responded, “I really liked the Lincoln Memorial. From the top of the stairs, you could see so many important buildings. That was so cool!”

Everything about our trip was very cool. Addie is someone who inspires me everyday. I cannot imagine sharing this extraordinary experience with anyone else.

---

After Special Olympics founder Eunice Kennedy Shriver passed away in August of 2009, Best Buddies and Special Olympics joined forces on a new piece of legislation, the Eunice Kennedy Shriver Act of 2010, which is a tangible testament to her dedication to improve the lives of persons with intellectual disabilities in the form of ongoing research, national and international expansion and training activities.


Share This Story W/Your Friends Share


Chris signed autographs and took pcitures with everyone.


Participants could not believe their favorite musician was in the room.


Chris and Amir show off their bling.



Participants surround musician Chris Brown in the VIP room of Lucky Strike Lanes
by KENT LOFTIN
State Director | Best Buddies Texas

On Friday, November 13, Best Buddies Texas participants had the opportunity to spend the afternoon with singer-songwriter and multi-platinum artist Chris Brown!

Participants with disabilities from Bellaire High School, Lee High School, North Shore High School and Westside High School participated in the special event made possible by a generous donation by Lucky Strike, Houston.

Chris Brown made the dreams come true for more than 30 of our participants as he bowled, signed autographs and took photographs with the Buddies before his Houston concert.

The Buddies, with their Chris Brown memorabilia in hand, raced up to Brown as he entered the room. Everyone wanted to show off their dance moves and get their picture taken with the famous musician.

Parent Delphine Sally said “I was amazed how Chris reached out to the children with special needs. This is a lifetime experience that they will never forget!”

Chris Brown surprised the Buddies with VIP tickets to his concert at the House of Blues. These Best Buddies participants had never attended a concert and were not prepared for what was awaiting them.

After being walked in early to a special VIP section, the Buddies were presented with gift bags filled with Chris Brown merchandise.

The concert began and our participants danced and sang along to every song. Throughout the concert, a text campaign was announced with all the proceeds benefiting Best Buddies.

At the end of the concert, Chris gave a shout out to the Buddies lighting up their faces and brining one participant to tears. As Amir, a Buddy from Lee High School left the concert holding his shoes because he had dance so much all he could say over and over was “Chris Brown is the man!”

Best Buddies Texas was moved by the willingness of Chris Brown and Lucky Strike to make the dreams come true for so many of our participants with intellectual disabilities!


Share This Story W/Your Friends Share

Marissa and Sara from Clear Creek Best Buddies.


Participants try on fire fighter hats at the Rock for Friendship.


Buddies hanging out at the Rock for Friendship concert.
by ANNE HOPTON-JONES
Lead Program Manager | Best Buddies Texas

On Saturday, November 14, students from six high schools participated in the Rock for Friendship at Clear Lake Park in Seabrook, TX. This was the first time the Bay Area high school Best Buddies chapters have all come together.

The event concept originated from a group of enthusiastic Best Buddies parents who were inspired by the participation of their sons and daughters in the Best Buddies High School Program.

Six high schools and six rock bands were selected and thanks to parent volunteers and an amazing student effort, the Rock for Friendship came to life!

This family-friendly event which included deluxe raffle and silent auction items, garnered over $3,500 in ticket sales, merchandise and food purchases, as well as in-kind donations.

Over 300 people from Clear Creek ISD, Friendswood ISD and Deer Park ISD attended in support of their favorite Best Buddies chapter or band.

Clear Creek High School attracted the most participants and will be honored with $100 to plan a chapter activity for their Best Buddies chapter.

The benefit combined musical performances from extremely talented high school students with stage appearances by many of our finest Best Buddies members.

Each chapter was given the opportunity to showcase Buddies and Peer Buddies who effectively represent the Best Buddies mission of friendship.

The Rock for Friendship was a great success and Best Buddies Texas intends to build on the event in the future!

Best Buddies Texas would like to thank the following high schools and rock bands:
Clear Brook High School
Clear Creek High School
Clear Lake High School
Clear Springs High School
Deer Park High School
Friendswood High School
Sunrise and Ammunition
Low Frequency
Beautiful Risk
Beautifully Broken
Stow Away
Winter Road
 
Also, the event would not have been possible without our event sponsors:
Low Frequency
Sentinel Trust Company
The Kemah Boardwalk
Beacon Lakes Golf Course
Putt Putt Fun Center
The Larsen Family          
The Morris Family
The Spencer Family
The Trevino Family
The Ward Family


Share This Story W/Your Friends Share


Patrick and Champ the Horse at the Highland Park Homecoming Pep Rally.


Patrick and Peer Buddy Meredith
by LINDSEY MILLER
Volunteer | Best Buddies Texas


Highland Park High School graduate and homecoming king, Patrick O’Boyle, is a very special young man who was granted a very special wish. Patrick, who has Down Syndrome, is a member of the Best Buddies Program at his high school.

Best Buddies helped make his dream of becoming the Equipment Manager for his favorite NBA team, the Dallas Mavericks, a reality. This surprise presentation took place during the Highland Park Homecoming pep rally.

Patrick is currently in his fourth year as the Highland Park basketball team manager, and was hired as the SMU football equipment manager this year.

He is a star Special Olympics basketball player and is known campus-wide for his unconditional school spirit and enthusiasm.

When Patrick sat down for frozen yogurt with Best Buddies Volunteer, Lindsey Miller, he recalled how the whole Highland Park varsity team would come out to watch his Special Olympics basketball games.

Patrick can recite scores, players and stats for many teams and sports, but basketball has always been his favorite. He grew up playing basketball with his dad in the driveway, and for his 21st birthday this year, Patrick and his dad are going to a Mavs game.

This birthday celebration was even more special to Patrick as he sat on the sidelines as part of his favorite NBA team. He met the players and helped the team with their equipment during the Dallas Mavericks Fan Jam at the American Airlines Center.

Patrick has been part of the Best Buddies Program for several years, enjoying the benefits of having one-on-one relationships and spending quality time enriching each others’ lives.

Meredith Barnes, his current Peer Buddy, is a senior at Highland Park and member of the Highland Belles. Before Meredith, Patrick was Buddies with her older brother Art, a former Highland Park varsity basketball team member.

Best Buddies introduces socialization opportunities and provides the necessary tools for people with intellectual disabilities to become more independent and involved in the community. Best Buddies is developing its jobs program in the Dallas area and is shinning the light on participants who have secured employment.

Patrick has been able to develop his social skills and love of sports thanks to his Best Buddies. He has pursued his love of sports and found employment with the SMU football team. “My favorite part are my paychecks in the bank,” – Patrick O’Boyle.

Read more about Patrick and Best Buddies in Park City People.


by ANNE HOPTON-JONES
Program Manager

Caroline from Taylor, Ashley from Bellaire, Jacob from Clear Lake and Eddy from Bellaire
On August 10, Best Buddies Texas hosted a bowling event at Dave and Buster’s to honor Houston’s exceptional friendships an d to kick off the upcoming year of friendships.

Seven high schools were represente d at the event: Bellaire High School, Taylor High School, North Shore High School, Katy High School, St. Thomas High School, Deer Park High School and Clear Lake High School.

Buddy Ambassadors, Jacob Larson and Michael Fry represented Best Buddies Texas, as well.

The Buddy Pairs bowled for over three hours. The students enjoyed interacting, given that they rarely have the opportunity to visit with each other during the school year.

For four of the Buddy Pairs, this was an opportunity to share one last event together before the student leaders leave for college. “I am going to miss Ainsley so much,” said Haley Florrow, who recently graduated from Deer Park High school.

Best Buddies participant Ainsley showed off her bowling skills.
“JR has been my Buddy for three years. College is going to be so strange without him,” remarked Brian Orr, a recent graduate from Clear Lake High School.

Ashley Tsai, the high school leader who helped open the Bellaire High School program agreed that it will be very hard to leave her chapter.

All of the Buddy Pairs plan to stay in touch, in spite of the transition to college and all of the Buddies are looking forward to getting new Peer Buddies as school starts.

Representatives from organization who support Best Buddies were on hand to speak with the Buddy Pairs, and heard uplifting stories about the years these young adults ha ve dedicated to Best Buddies.

Best Buddies Texas would like to thank all of the supporters who made the 2008-2009 such a success.


by MEGAN PEET
Program Supervisor | Best Buddies Texas

Matt Attick and Chris Grammer in at the 2007 Love Can Move Mountains Gala
A wedding is a time when a couple stands in front of their friends and family and proclaim their love and their lifelong commitment to one another.

For many people with intellectual disabilities, their wedding day is something they can only dream of but for Best Buddies participant Chris Grammer and his fiancée Lauren this dream will become a reality on June 17, 2011 after a two year courtship.

While planning a wedding there are many important decisions to make like where to get married and who to invite. But for Chris, the question of who will be his Best Man was simple to answer: Matt Altick, his Peer Buddy with whom he has been matched in a Best Buddies one-to-one friendship for the past three years.

Matt describes the way Chris asked him to be his Best Man, “The conversation first came when he told me he had proposed to Lauren. I was like ‘Good job, bro,’ and asked him about the wedding. Then I was joking like, ‘I better be invited dude.’ then he was like, ‘Of course, you are gonna be my best man.’ It might have been one of the happiest moments in my life, knowing that I had made a difference in someone else’s life.”

Matt and Chris began their friendship as part of the Jesuit College Preparatory School and Notre Dame School’s Best Buddies chapter over three years ago. “My relationship with Chris has been awesome. I love the time that I get to spend with him, because not only does he learn from me, but I learn from him. He's a great guy with a caring heart and I'm so thankful that he's one of my buddies.”

Their friendship has grown over simple activities. They enjoy racing go-carts, playing Putt Putt, watching sports and destroying each other playing WWE Wrestling on the Xbox 360. But none of their past activities will be as special as when Matt stands besides Chris on his wedding day and they share the magic of a Chris and Lauren’s union.


by YVETTE E. MITCHELL
Houston Advisory Board Chairman

Yvette Mitchell with Kent Loftin, Best Buddies Texas State Director
I am extremely excited to be working again to fulfill the Best Buddies mission. I truly believe that once a cause or purpose touches your life, it stays with you for a lifetime.

My involvement with Best Buddies started 18 years ago in 1991. I was a college freshman at The University of Texas at Austin, walking across campus with two of my closest friends.

Tied to the trees were these posters with a cool looking picture (yes, that would be the Keith Haring logo), asking you to sign up to be a friend.

We were curious and inquisitive, so we decided to attend. Little did we know that meeting would change and impact our lives in a significant way. From then, we became inaugural members of the UT Austin chapter, and stayed affiliated with the program until we finished school.

My buddy’s name was Gloria, and we had some of the best times on the Capital Metro in Austin…going to the mall, the movies, or just hanging out at her assisted living facility. I was honored to serve as the Chapter President in 1994.

It was an exciting time, as the chapter was growing and we were able to encourage other fellow students to be a part of our mission.

I have been truly blessed to have the opportunity once again to serve the Best Buddies mission as one of the founding Advisory Board members in Houston. We have assisted in reigniting the initiatives of the Best Buddies Texas (BBTX) office, under the phenomenal leadership of Texas State Director Kent Loftin, and Program Managers Denise Ben and Anne Hopton-Jones.

It means the world to me to have found my way back to Best Buddies. As a 14 year veteran with Chevron and having worked with several other non-profit organizations in the Houston area on programs and fundraising, it was the perfect timing to step into this role.

Since January 2009 to date, the Houston Advisory Board of BBTX has accomplished the following:
  • Chartered advisory board with eight active, energetic members from the Greater Houston community volunteering their time and talents to BBTX
  • Assisted with the planning and fundraising of our inaugural Festival of Friendship, raising over $21,000 towards Texas chapter programs
  • Worked with the BBTX staff to establish clear fundraising and programmatic goals for the remainder of the year

We are definitely on a path to success, and hope to set a course for the Houston Advisory Board to be a pacesetter for other advisory boards across the nation.

My primary focus for being involved with Best Buddies is the realization, at age 18, that people with developmental disabilities really need us. They need us to be the champions for their rights and causes, they need us for guidance and encouragement, but most of all, they need our friendship – plain and simple.

From phone calls to emails with a buddy you’ve been paired with, to providing transportation or much needed supplies, to assisting high school and college students with their programs, to calling your friends to educate them about the BBTX mission – there are so many ways for you to be involved and contribute to this cause. These are simple things that can really make a difference in the life of a person with a developmental disability.

At a young age, I made the choice that Best Buddies was much bigger than myself, yet so simple for an individual to make a lasting impact on the lives of others. To give back to an organization that has given so much to me really is the experience of a lifetime.

Sincerely,

Yvette E. Mitchell


by ANNE HOPTON-JONES
Program Supervisor | Best Buddies Texas

Best Buddies Texas is proud of our outstanding Buddies who will attend the 20th Annual Best Buddies Leadership Conference at Indiana University, July 24-27! Kathryn Albertini, Addie Lasseigne and JR Larson will all attend the international conference as Texas Buddy Ambassadors. They will receive training in public speaking, leadership and may be selected to present during the closing ceremonies in front of more than 1,000 student leaders from around the world.

Kathryn Albertini, Carroll Senior High School

Kathryn Albertini
Kathryn is a member of one of Dallas’ newest Best Buddies chapters. Carroll Senior High School became a chartered chapter in the fall 2008.

At 21 years-old, she is “ridiculously excited” for this opportunity, says Program Supervisor, Megan Peet. Kathryn will attend with conference with two other students from Carroll Senior High School since the President and Vice President were both able raise the funds to join her.

Kathryn’s friends and family hope that this experience will be enlightening and inspiring to her as a student leader. After the training, Kathryn will become the second Buddy Ambassador in the Dallas area.


Addie Lasseigne, Spring High School

Addie Lasseigne
Addie has served as the Buddy Director for the Spring High School during her two years involved with Best Buddies. Serving as an officer has been exceptionally special for Addie because she gets to work alongside Allison Ngo – the Chapter President and Addie’s Peer Buddy. Addie is also a trained Buddy Ambassador for Best Buddies Texas.

After attending a Buddy Ambassador Training in Houston Addie became interested in attending the 2009 Leadership Conference. Addie is looking forward to the conference, stating, “I am so excited to get to travel to Indiana with Allison and to get to make a speech for the conference!”

Best Buddies Texas is excited for Addie to take part in this awesome opportunity!


Jacob Ryan Larson, Clear Lake High School

Jacob Ryan Larson
JR has been involved with Best Buddies for three years. He served as the Clear Lake High School Buddy Director during the 2008-09 school year. JR is also a trained Buddy Ambassador and attended the Houston Buddy Ambassador training.

In the last year, he has been an active volunteer for Best Buddies, attending The Guaranty Bank Tour de Houston where he met Houston’s mayor and Senator Rodney Ellis. JR participated in the annual Friendship Walk and raised $1,500!

JR looks forward to meeting new people at Leadership Conference. He is also eager to advance his public speaking skills.

There is no doubt that JR will make his Peer Buddy and all of his other supporters very proud!


by MEGAN PEET

Dallas Cowboy Bradie James helps kick off the start of the Festival with the two Masters of Cermonies.
At the 2nd Annual Festival of Friendship, hundreds of Best Buddies supporters, high school and college participants gathered on April 25 at the University of Dallas to celebrate the Best Buddies mission of friendship benefiting people with in tellectual disabilities.

Over $15,000 was raised to support the high school and college programs in the area.

A special thanks to everyone who participated in our one-mile Buddy Walk and collected donations from their family and friends.

Our two highest fundraisers were participants with intellectual disabilities from Southlake Carroll High School who raised over $1,200 collectively!!

In addition to the Buddy Walk around the campus at the start of the festival, attendees were able to enjoy fun activity booths. These booths were organized by Best Buddies chapters as well as community groups such as the St. Edward’s University Alumni Chapter, Southern Methodist University’s APO Service Fraternity, and Administaff.

Walkers on the 1-mile Friendship Walk.
Some of the activities included a cake walk, bounce house, kickball, pie in the face, face painting, and duck races. The dunk tank organized by the Ursuline Academy Best Buddies chapter won the Best Activity Booth trophy.

The Festival of Friendship also provided a stage for people with intellectual disabilities to showcase their experiences with Best Buddies and their talents.

Abby Munn, a Buddy Ambassador from the SMU Best Buddies chapter, spoke on how Best Buddies has impacted her live and Time Wendt preformed a few of his favorite Elvis songs in a stylist Elvis costume.

The Masters of Ceremony for the event were a Buddy Pair from Colleyville Heritage High School- Graham McMillan and Erik Cobb.

Members of the Colleyville Heritage High School Best Buddies chapter accept the Buddy Cup Award for Chapter Excellence
Everyone enjoyed dancing to the music provided by DJ Jason and free food and drinks that included grilled hotdogs, chips generously provided by Frito-Lay, Potbelly cookies, popcorn, snowcones, cotton candy and soft drinks provided by the Dr. Pepper Snapple Group.

A special thanks to all of our generous sponsors who help underwrite the cost of the whole event so that 100% of the proceeds can go back to our high school and college programs in Texas.

The Festival of Friendship would not have been possible without the generous support of our sponsors.
 

 

Individuals and Chapters Recognized at the Festival of Friendship

Top Individual Fundraiser:
Kathryn Albertini who raised $590 from Southlake Carroll High School

Best Activity Booth:
Ursuline Academy

Buddy Pair of the Year:
Graham McMillan and Erik Cobb from Colleyville Heritage High School

Money Cup, for Chapter Excellence:
Southlake Carroll High School

Buddy Cup, for the Top Chapter Fundraiser:
Colleyville Heritage High School


Chapters recognized for outstanding support of Best Buddies Texas (raised over $1,000 to support the chapter in their school):

Southlake Carroll High School raised $2,020!!
Southern Methodist University
Ursuline Academy

View Festival of Friendship Photos and upload your own at http://bestbuddiestexas.shutterfly.com

Please Support Our Event Sponsors



     



by DENISE BEN

On April 4th, 2009, the Bellaire HS Best Buddies chapter became the first proud recipient of the Best Buddies Houston Buddy Cup Award for Most Outstanding Local Chapter. During the awards ceremony of our first annual Festival of Friendship, Chapter President Ashley Tsai, escorted by her sister and inspiration, Angela accepted the Buddy Cup award on behalf of the Bellaire chapter.

The Buddy Cup was instituted as a way to recognize a Houston area Outstanding Chapter. Each year the award will be passed along to a chapter that exhibits excellence in fulfilling the Best Buddies mission. This year, the Cup will be on display in the trophy case of Bellaire high school honoring the amazing achievements of the Bellaire High School Best Buddies program.


Representatives from the Bellaire Best Buddies chapter receiving the 2009 Buddy Cup Award.


This chapter is only in its second year of existence, the Bellaire chapter has had a lengthy list of accomplishments. The inception of the chapter at the school in 2007 is an accomplishment in itself. Ashley initiated contact with Best Buddies staff to get the chapter started at her school after witnessing first hand the isolation felt by her sister, Angela, who has an intellectual disability (Read more about the start of the Bellaire chapter).

Challenged by many obstacles, from funding to administrative approval, Ashley overcame every road block to finally get the chapter up and running in fall of 2007. In the summer at the 2008 Leadership Conference, Bellaire was nationally recognized, receiving the Chapter of Excellence Award.

The officer corps consistently worked hard to promote the organization’s existence on campus this year. The chapter grew tremendously, having 140 members, including 26 Buddy Pairs. Within the 2008-2009 school year, the Bellaire Chapter has had a series of successful events most notably being their Disability Awareness Day, held school wide in February.

The chapter has been featured by Fox 26 News and KPRC Channel 2, bringing community awareness to the Best Buddies mission. Recently, the chapter facilitated a partnership between Best Buddies and Heart of Sailing, an organization that introduces sailing to children with developmental disabilities as a form of education and recreational therapy. Besides all of the extracurricular achievements, Bellaire has maintained success in fostering the friendships that are at the core of the Best Buddies mission.

Best Buddies Texas congratulates the Bellaire Best Buddies chapter for being the most outstanding chapter in the greater Houston area! Officers and advisors at Bellaire are: President Ashley Tsai , Vice President Ali Aronowitz , Buddy Director Kevin Murray, Secretary Jing Jin, Treasurer Brittany Garza, Historian Anna Kwan, Special Education Advisor Kris Frost, and Faculty Advisor Samantha Hatvany.


by ASHLEY TSAI
High School Senior
Chapter President - Bellaire High School

Ashley and her sister.
On a cold, fateful winter night, my parents were driving home when they were hit by a drunk driver.

My mom was pregnant with Angela, my older sister.

They were rushed to the hospital in critical condition. Angela was born that night, seven weeks too early.

Her little heart and lungs couldn’t provide enough oxygen to her brain, causing permanent brain damage that would hinder her learning and social abilities

The doctors said she wouldn ’t make it, but her will to survive proved them wrong with the very first beat of her heart.

I remember vividly the first time my mom told me that story.

Tears rolling down my cheeks, I felt inexpressible anger and resentment at the drunk driver for taking away Angela’s chance at a normal life.

From climbing stairs to finding friends at school, every step, every movement, and every expression of thought would now be a challenge for Angela.

I’ve always believed everything happens for a reason; yet I struggled to find a reason for why Angela was born the way she was, and why, of all the families in the world, she was a part of mine.

Growing up, Angela had a few friends that were nice to her at school. But too many times I saw the broken smile on her face when they would politely decline her invitations to hang out.

No matter how much time my family and I spent with her, there was a vital aspect of life – simple friendship – that Angela was still missing. I became increasingly frustrated with my inability to ease her difficulties.

One night, during a conversation with her, I suddenly realized that all my life, I had quietly accepted the fact that life would always be hard for Angela.

Up until this moment, I never believed that I could change the way my peers view and treat people with disabilities. This empowering recognition of my own ability to make a difference was the first step of an incredible journey.

I sent a quick email to my brother about what I wanted to do, not knowing his reply would hold the answer to what I had been looking for. He told me about a program called Best Buddies, an organization he learned about after reading my email and bringing it up with some dorm mates.

I immediately started researching the organization and found that it is an international organization dedicated to providing opportunities of friendship for people with disabilities.

At my school there was no program that encouraged interaction between the special education population and the general population.

Strengthened by fear and prejudice and helped along by school norms and the staggered schedules of the special education students, a wall had been forming, and neither side had ever dared to reach across.

Inspired by my sister, I knew I could try.

Eight long months of anxiously hoping, waiting, and working followed. With a close friend who helped out from the beginning, I worked with Best Buddies staff, school administrators, and the special education department to start a chapter at my school.

Obstacles and disappointments tested me and at times, frustratingly discouraged, I broke down and came dangerously close to giving up. But each time, I wiped away the tears and refused to admit defeat.

When the administrators thought the program would be a risk, I set up a meeting with representatives from Best Buddies. When Best Buddies International told me they lacked the $7,000 needed to start and oversee the chapter, I said without hesitation I was willing to raise it.

Every atom of my being knew I needed to make this happen; nothing else in my life had ever felt so right. Fortunately, funding from Best Buddies came through.

The quiet moment Bellaire Best Buddies became reality—announced by a brief, business-like email from an administrator—overwhelmed every ounce of frustration I experienced – and was by far the proudest moment of my life.

Starting the chapter, I had no clear cut path to follow; but what I did have was my determination to create a more inclusive environment within the school for students like my sister.

Though passion and perseverance initially didn’t seem like much to go on, they proved to be enough as the chapter drew more and more members and gained the respect of the community inside and outside of the school.

Bellaire Best Buddies was featured in local newspapers and magazine articles and even on Fox 26 News.

The chapter was nominated by the school for an award honoring organizations that work to improve the school community, and after only a year, Best Buddies International recognized Bellaire as a Chapter of Excellence, an honor given to only the top five percent of chapters worldwide.

Though awards and nominations are certainly gratifying, they hardly encompass the impact the chapter has had on the school and its students, with and without disabilities.

Seeing the tears in a mother’s eyes as she thanked me for what the chapter has done, seeing Saul (a nonverbal student) smile and laugh for the first time during a chapter event, and hearing students greet a fellow student in the hallway who normally would have walked unnoticed – these incredible moments show that our chapter has truly had a positive impact on the special education community.

But the impact reaches far beyond the boundaries of the special education classroom.

I saw that every one of us, regardless of our disabilities, has realized our potential to transform lives through the immeasurable power of love, respect, and friendship.

I finally recognized the reason for Angela’s place in my life: because of her, I have discovered in myself not only my capacity, but also my deep passion for and dedication to helping others.


By: Anne Hopton-Jones

The Festival of Friendship, held in Houston on April 4th, was an especially rewarding experience for a Rice University Buddy Pair. Best Buddies Texas recognized Ryan Fleming and Jack Williams as the “Outstanding Buddy Pair of the Year.” Kemly Philip, Rice University’s College Buddy Director, nominated the Buddy Pair, stating that Fleming and Williams “treat each other as equals … their friendship and bubbly nature is frankly contagious!” The crowd was able to witness the pair’s palpable enthusiasm as they took to the stage to accept the award.
 














Jack Williams and Ryan Fleming accepting the Buddy Pair of the Year award.
Fleming, a junior at Rice University, credited his Buddy Jack for the duo’s award. “If there is a reason that we are the best, it is only because Jack is the best,” said Fleming. Williams beamed as he thanked everyone for the applause. After accepting the award, Williams asked to share a gospel song with the crowd. Ryan proudly stood by his side as Jack sang one of his favorite church hymns. 
                             
Jack and Ryan have been matched in a one-to-one friendship for two years. Ryan has also been selected as the College Buddy Director for 2009-2010. Best Buddies Texas congratulates Jack and Ryan for their dedication to each other and the Best Buddies mission of friendship.


by DENISE BEN
Program Manager


Sarah Parisi, Sarah Moonesan, and advisor Shannon Womak
High school can be a lonely place if you are different.

Without friends, just walking through the hallway can become a dreaded activity.

Parents and teachers are often unable to create a safe space for their children, but there is a group of student leaders who are changing the social f abric of local high school chapters every day.

By simply reaching out a hand of friendship.

Seven Lakes High School has had a Best Buddies chapter for the past three years, but it was not until a Buddy named Sarah Parisi transferred to the school that the chapter truly understood the power of friendship.

Sarah Parisi is selectively non-communicative. At her previous school, her teachers and other students did not know she was able to talk.

The Chapter President of Seven Lakes wanted to make sure that Sarah felt welcome at her new school and became her Best Buddy.

At first Sarah P. would not talk to her new Buddy, but the Seven Lakes chapter is filled with caring students who spend time every week creating a supportive environment by eating lunch, bowling, going to church, talking on the phone or just givin g a high five to their friends with disabilities.

Buddy Pair performing at the Seven Lakes Talent Show
The President of the chapter, also named Sarah, continued to show Sarah P. enthusiasm and interest, encouraging her to open up to her new friends.

During Sarah’s first year at Seven Lakes she began to speak to her Buddy. It was a gradual process, but now Sarah P. does not stop talking, and she has opened up around others chapter members.

Sarah likes to tell stories and she now attends youth group meetings with her Peer Buddy.

In just this first semester, Best Buddies has made a major impact on Sarah’s life. Sarah P. even participated in the Best Buddies Seven Lakes Talent Show!

Sarah was one of the three MCs for the event and announced performers for an audience of more than 80 students, teachers, parents, and friends.

Parents and guardians, including Sarah’s, were extremely moved and excited by seeing their children have the confidence to perform on stage, some for the first time.

On 67 campuses across the state of Texas, student volunteers are leading chapters like the one at Seven Lakes High School. These amazing student leaders are changing Texas, one friendship at a time.


by KENT LOFTIN
State Director


Donated items spill out from under the Christmas tree at the group home.
Best Buddies Texas completed an amazing year of friendships, socialization activities, trainings and events that have enhanced the lives of people with intellectual disabilities.

There are also many small projects which are made possible by the support of donors and volunteers who are passionate about enhancing the lives of our participants. 

One of these special projects comes at a time of year when families are gathered together for the holidays.

While most people are at home enjoying the holidays, there is a group of adults with intellectual disabilities who spend Christmas day apart from their loved ones.

These people live in a group home in Houston and either do not have surviving family members or have family who are unable to visit during the holidays.

On Christmas Day, as many as seventy-five of these individuals receive no presents, no holiday wishes and languish on a day without activities due to the minimal staff who work at the facility during the holiday.

Many of the participants are matched in one-to-one friendships with college volunteers from Rice University, the University of St. Thomas, and the University of Houston.

A volunteer hands out presents to the residents.
These volunteers have worked with Best Buddies to raise money and provide Christmas gifts to all the people with intellectual disabilities who are left at the facility on Christmas day.

Volunteers show up on Christmas morning, pass out gifts, spend time with the residents and bring some Christmas cheer to this special part of our community.

This year the Best Buddies Christmas project distributed 62 large gifts to residents of the group home.

Each resident received a duffle bag filled with toiletries, other goodies and a large stuffed animal.

The volunteers worked especially hard to purchase quality duffle bags when they learned that residents used trash bags to hold their clothes on trips to camp and to see family.

The moment was best captured when a resident hugged a volunteer and said, “Thank you for bringing Christmas!”

Best Buddies is grateful for the volunteers who took time away from their families on Christmas morning and for the generous sponsors who made it possible for Best Buddies to give gifts to the residents.

Smiles and holiday cheer made it a memorable morning for all.
Sponsoring organizations:
Macy’s
Marie Haimes Avon Representative
Paragon Casino and Resort
North Shore Rotary Club


by KENT LOFTIN
State Director

Secretary Phil Stoltz, Donna Powell, Sandi Boyett, President Dan Tass & Santa.
What makes Christmas so meaningful for people around the nation?

For the high school students with intellectual disabilities in Katy, Christmas comes alive thanks to the wonderful members of Katy Elks Lodge #2628.

Beginning in 2004, the Katy Elks have invited the students involved in the Best Buddies’ chapters at Cinco Ranch, Katy, Morton Ranch, Seven Lakes and Taylor High Schools to their lodge for a magical evening.

Members of lodge #2628 fundraise, get up early in the morning to decorate, cook and prepare for the 400 high school students invited to the Christmas dance.

Best Buddies is a high school club that matches students with intellectual disabilities into one-to-one friendships with their peers without disabilities.

An important part of the Best Buddies mission is the socialization activities put on by each chapter.

A Buddy taking his picture with Santa.
It is at these activities where students with disabilities have the opportunity to gain the vital social skills they will need to be successful adults.

Since the Best Buddies chapters are run by student volunteers, raising the funds to plan an event on the scale of the Christmas dance is very difficult.

Additionally, bringing together participants from all the high school chapters in the area a llows the students to have an even more powerful experience.

This Christmas dance was the fifth event put on by the Katy Elks for the local Best Buddies chapters and the passion of one person, Donna Powell, brought this amazing group of students together. 

Donna was aware of the Best Buddies program and wanted to hold an event at the lodge that would enrich the lives of the students with intellectual disabilities.

Face painting, balloon artists, dancing and much more kept everyone smiling.
At first, she struggled to contact the chapters, but through persistence and her ability to inspire to Katy Elks to take on this event, she has created a great tradition that impacts hundreds every year.

As Donna says, “The lodge loves this event and there is never a shortage of volunteers.”

Katy Elks dress up as Santa and his elves, volunteer as DJ, help direct t raffic on often frigid Texas nights, decorate, clean up and keep delicious food items flowing from the kitchen.

While most Best Buddies chapters are holding fundraisers in order to have a small holiday party, the Katy chapters are able to spend time with their Buddies deciding what they are going to wear to the dance.

The amount of joy this event brings to the participants with disabilities, their peer buddies and the parents is difficult to describe to those who have not witnessed the event.

Buddies danced the night away.
There are too few opportunities where people with intellectual disabilities can be themselves, laugh dance and enjoy the experiences that other students take for granted.

Best Buddies cannot thank the Katy Elks lodge enough for their dedication to improving the lives of children with intellectual disabilities.
 


By Sylvia White, Program Manager

Self Empowerment Through Public Speaking
Colleyville Heritage High School had the privilege to honor Erik Cobb as their newest Homecoming King.

Dressed in black and red he looked dapper and dignified as he made the stroll down victory lane with his mother on his arm.

He was selected from a homecoming court of two of his peers that boasted credentials like great academics and community service.

But Erik had something special going for him because at his school he is a legend.

He has served as the manager of the school's football team, been awarded multiple awards through Special Olympics, served as Buddy Director of his school's Best Buddies chapter, and was named one of 5 most influential people in the school's newspaper last year.

Erik is popular according to Best Buddies Chapter President Graham McMillan, "because he sees everybody equally," and has a special knack for interacting with everyone.

The chapter's Special Education Advisor, Cathy Steiner recalled how deep that affection ran when she described how Erik's love of Sponge Bob prompted the entire football team to join him in singing Sponge Bob songs en route to a game.

It's easy to see that the feeling is mutual as Erik reaches back to his peers through high-fives and bright smiles. When talking with CNN reporter Carl Azuz about the occasion of his nomination Erik said…"school loves me. I'm a king. Me."

In response to the honor, Erik carried the homecoming scepter to school during the following week and aside from demanding McDonald's because he was king, he remains an unassuming and well liked classmate to the students of Colleyville who selected him as King.



By Denise Ben, Program Manager

In October 2008, Best Buddies staff had the privilege of being invited as special guests to River Oaks Theater for a screening of “Changing a Mind”, a documentary about the discovery and use of a treatment for individuals with Down syndrome which dramatically improves quality of life. It chronicles Dr.

Teresa Cody’s ten year commitment of research, interviews, and experimentation to find effective treatment for the symptoms of her son’s Down syndrome.

Sondra Hicks, executive producer of Winds of Fire Entertainment, a friend and supporter of the Best Buddies movement and whose daughter is the Chapter President at Foster High School, wanted to spread the word about this uplifting discovery. Mrs. Hicks, who filmed the documentary, has worked closely with Dr. Cody to tell the story of Dr. Cody’s son, Neal and several other individuals whose lives have been transformed by the treatment.

The documentary follows individuals who range in age from three to 25. Parents of the participants describe their child’s decline over the years and how this breakthrough treatment has given their children the physiological tools needed to become more functional. The subjects of the film were


Dr. Cody and her son, Neal

present at the screening and introduced prior to the showing of the film.

It was truly an uplifting experience to see these healthy, happy, and cute young people stand in front of us as an example of hope and victory over hindering symptoms of the syndrome. Too often our Buddies with Down Syndrome are not able to participate in Best Buddies adult programs such as the Citizens Friendship Program and Jobs Program. Dr. Cody’s breakthrough could play an important role in helping more of our participants continue to gain socialization opportunities, independence and dignified employment.

If you are a parent of a child with down syndrome or know someone who is, you need to know about this treatment and the inspirational film. Please take a moment to visit www.changingamind.com for more information on the treatment and to see a preview of the film.



 
Self Empowerment Through Public Speaking

The Buddies United in Leadership Development (BUILD) program is an initiative that supports the Best Buddies mission by training individuals with intellectual disabilities from our programs to become skilled public speakers and leaders in their community.

The BUILD workshop is an intensive program that develops their public speaking skills and builds confidence which enhances their ability to represent Best Buddies and themselves.

Each participant is specifically targeted and invited by a Best Buddies staff member because of their passion for Best Buddies and their initiative within the program. They will be matched with a volunteer speech coach who will attend the 4-hour training and will work with them to prepare for and give speeches.

At the end of the training, the participants will share their speech with a captive audience and receive constructive feedback.

After the participants have developed, written and given their speeches during the workshop, they will be encouraged to represent Best Buddies as  Buddy Ambassadors.

The Buddy Ambassadors will have the opportunity to speak at Best Buddies events, legislative days, community awareness events and to potential corporate partners.

Both the Best Buddies Dallas and Houston office will be holding 4-hour workshops in the fall of 2009. If you are interested in joining a committee to help plan the training or be a speech coach please contact:

DALLAS
Megan Peet |
Program Supervisor
E-Mail: MeganPeet@bestbuddies.org

HOUSTON - March 8th 
Anne Hopton-Jones|
Program Manager
E-Mail: AnneHopton-Jones@bestbuddies.org



by ANNE HOPTON-JONES

Best Buddies Texas is passionate about creating opportunities for our participants to become leaders and self-advocates.

This is why on Sunday, November 16, 2008 Best Buddies Texas held a Buddy Ambassador Training in Houston. The Best Buddies Texas team invited eleven Best Buddies participants with intellectual disabilities to attend the event.

The event also included an array of volunteers, including eleven speech coaches who were matched one-on-one with the Buddies.

During the four-hour training, the speech coaches encouraged the Buddies to share their Best Buddies experience as well as their hopes and dreams for the future.

The Best Buddies Texas team was delighted to witness the immediate bond that formed between each pair!

The Buddies openly shared their stories as the speech coaches helped them organize their thoughts.

After a brief lunch break, the pairs each began composing the Buddy Ambassador speeches. All of the Buddies had the option of rehearsing on film or practicing the speech on stage.

The Buddies who chose to be filmed were able to see themselves on television before presenting the speech to a live audience.

The last hour of the training was dedicated to the Buddies presenting their speeches to parents, friends and other volunteers. One by one, each Buddy stepped up to the podium. Many of the participants were experiencing their first exposure to the world of public speaking.

Though a few of the Buddies expressed some apprehension, all of them presented with great confidence and composure. The audience members laughed, cried and applauded the Buddies.

As the training ended, the Best Buddies Texas team presented each participant with a graduation certificate in recognition of their hard work and determination. Best Buddies Texas would especially like to thank our volunteers for sharing a life changing moment with our Buddy Ambassadors and Chipotle for donating a delicious lunch.

If you would like to participate or volunteer at a future Buddy Ambassador Trainings please contact us at AnneHoptonJones@bestbuddies.org.

BBTX Hosts Local Leadership Training Days

The 24th Annual Best Buddies Leadership Conference

The Woodlands’ High School Program Raise Funds and Awareness

Search Site|Privacy Policy|FAQs
Best Buddies International. All Rights Reserved.