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Best Buddies Leadership Conference advocates, excites at IU Auditorium


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By Nona Tepper




Best Buddies founder Anthony Kennedy Shriver was left at the airport on Friday.

There was nothing he could do.

He looked on as 35 other Best Buddies volunteers filed into the airplane, took his spot and traveled to the conference he was about to head.

“That’s the way the movement’s going, it’s a revolution,” Shriver said. “The old guys are out and the young guys are in.”

Amid airline delays and missed flights, Shriver was able to make it to the IU Auditorium on Friday.

He delivered the keynote speech for the Opening Ceremony at the Best Buddies Leadership Conference.

The ceremony kicked off a four-day conference, bringing together volunteers from all over the world involved in the Best Buddies organization, a non-profit dedicated to advocating for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Over the course of 23 years Best Buddies has expanded its presence to 50 countries.
More than 700,000 members are involved worldwide.

The eventual goal is to help individuals with IDD obtain rewarding jobs, make lifelong friendships and the skills to live on their own.

Buddies from Canada, Mexico, Sweden and about 18 other countries attended Friday’s event.

Mollie Noble, volunteer at the Best Buddies Indiana office and self advocate, spoke about the impact Best Buddies has had on her life.

“When you have lots of courage you can grab your dreams until your knuckles turn white,” Noble said. “You can make you dreams come true.”

Noble was the recipient of the International Spirit of Courage award at the 2011 conference.

This award recognizes dedication and success in carrying out the Best Buddies cause.

Noble presented it to this year’s recipient, Midwest Buddy Director Blake Long.

Dancers Cassie Lacy and Marshal Rabe were then welcomed to the stage to perform their award-winning routine to Cee Lo Green’s “F*ck You.”

The dance was a combination of cha-cha, jazz and ballroom styles.

About 2,000 volunteers sang along and clapped to the couple’s song.

Some attendees waved flags and glowsticks to the music.

Dylann Keaney, a 15-year-old Best Buddies volunteer, taped the performance on her iPhone.

“I think it’s so good that so many people came together for something so good,” Keaney said. “Best Buddies is important because it helps you understand not to be nervous around people with IDD’s. They’re no different than we are, and you can get along with them just as easily as someone else.”

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