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Saturday, March 2
The Indiana Daily Student

student life

Best Buddies celebrates 25 years


By Anicka Slachta

The screams of thousands echoed in Assembly Hall July 26 as a player got the rebound and drove down the court on a fast break. His teammate swerved the wheelchair to a stop for the player to take the lay-up.

In Best Buddies basketball, wheels are not a barrier to participation.

The 25th Annual Best Buddies Leadership Conference convened July 25 at IU to celebrate a quarter century of empowering individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Best Buddies is an international non-profit organization seeking to create opportunities for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, according to the organization’s website.

More than 2,000 students attended the conference, representing more than 20 countries, including Brazil and Malaysia.

“It’s really exciting to see how Best Buddies has grown and caught on to be a global volunteer movement around the world,” said David Quilleon, senior vice president of Global Mission, State Development and Operations.

The conference began with an opening ceremony July 25 at IU Auditorium that featured global Buddy Ambassadors and a fashion show.

The participants went on a Friendship Walk through campus the next morning to promote inclusion, according to the website. The walk ended at Alumni Hall where the participants signed a banner.

Chrissy Harris, a six-time conference volunteer, said the event allows her to reflect on her life.

“It’s just a good motivator for me, kind of to check some balance of where I am in my life and how lucky I am,” ?Harris said.

“It is really amazing to help other people and hear the stories of other people and their struggle in life, and being able to help them is such a huge achievement.”

Attendees participated in and watched a pep rally in Alumni Hall that evening that included a basketball game, cheerleading routines, a saxophonist and Captain America.

The conference ended with a closing ceremony reflecting upon the week and an ’80s-themed party to enter the new school year with positivity, according to the website.

Fran Healy, a special education teacher at East Greenwich High School in Rhode Island, said the conference allows her to reenergize and connect with other chapters.

“I feel like it’s like a shot in the arm,” Healy said. “You know, every year when I come it just gives me more experiences and more knowledge and talking to other people and networking and just being able to go back to my chapter August when we go back to school and just start, you know, trying to be the best that we can be every year.”

Although the conference serves to empower students, Quilleon said he hopes Best Buddies will no longer exist in the 25 years, because the barriers for persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities will have been removed from society.

“Really, in 25 years, I hope that Best Buddies doesn’t have to be around anymore, that we’ve worked so hard that we put ourselves out of business,” Quilleon said.

“That people with intellectual and developmental disabilities are so naturally ingrained into the workplace and to their society and school, that you don’t even need a program like this ?anymore.”

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