Arguably the greatest win of last Friday night’s varsity football game evolved not on the field but among members of Warde’s Best Buddies club, huddled unassumingly in the student section of the bleachers. The congregation of Best Buddies members at the game promoted the ultimate essence of school spirit that all students should strive for: the spirit of kindness.
Best Buddies is an international organization that provides students with and without disabilities the opportunity to build friendships and impact their community in a positive way. The ultimate goal of the organization is to provide equitable social and leadership opportunities and empower students to end “the social, physical and economic isolation of the 200 million people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD)” (Best Buddies International). The club fosters one-to-one friendships between students with disabilities and neuro-typical students and holds regular and frequent meetings outside of school, including movie nights, arts and crafts, talent shows, dances, and more.
Time with Best Buddies is a time of “sheer enjoyment” and “smiles” as senior club member Connor Breheny evoked. It is a unique unity of inclusivity in which students are dedicated to cultivating welcoming and safe spaces. For Vice President Ida Moczerniuk, “Best buddies is a place to truly be yourself and to meet amazing people you otherwise wouldn’t have gotten to know. The friendships I’ve made in the club are lasting and I wouldn’t trade them for anything.”
Best Buddies aims to integrate students with disabilities into social opportunities beyond the classroom; the football game was the perfect conduit. At 6:20 pm, ten minutes before kickoff, Best Buddies members met at Warde’s ticket tent to convene and find seats on the bleachers together. The group planned to stay together until half-time, though their connectedness kept them together until well into the third quarter.
While the Best Buddies unit may not have been the most boisterous bunch, they certainly were the most benevolent. Members could be found conversing about the game, weekend plans, favorite snacks, making up handshakes, and dancing to stay warm.
Buddy Director Max Capuano and his brother, Alex, were excited by this being their first experience at a Warde football game. Max shared “me being at the Warde Football game with Best Buddies was like being at a real professional game cheering for our team. Just being there makes me feel like I got to hang out with my friends at the game and just have a blast.”
Students reconnected with friends they had met at the first meeting of the year on October 22. Connor Breheny expressed his happiness at reuniting and talking with his new friend Brendan and his mom as they enjoyed conversation and games of rock-paper-scissors. Breheny is pleased that Best Buddies provides a place for students with IDDs to “socialize, enjoy themselves, and stay safe and be a part of the school community even if it doesn’t mean being part of the Stampede (Warde’s sports student section).”
For freshmen like Sammy Portnay, “it was a great opportunity to meet members from Best Buddies as a new member.”
Ultimately Best Buddies did not win an award or title, but each student with Best Buddies on Friday night walked away with new friendships and the joy of reciprocated kindness.
Best Buddies is looking forward to their next event, the annual Match Party, where students will discover their deliberately chosen one-to-one friendship buddies with whom they will build strong, meaningful friendships over the course of the upcoming year and years to come.