BBLC 2013: Buddies Without Borders – A Review

The YLC had the pleasure of participating and helping lead BBLC 2013 last weekend. My good friend and fellow YLC member, Lindsey Eaton, shared the following about her time at this meeting of over 1,700 student leaders, volunteers, and staff from Best Buddies International’s programs around the world.

The 24th Annual Best Buddies Leadership Conference was my third conference. The conference brought together students and staff with and without disabilities to teach them how to lead their middle school, high school and college chapters while utilizing the Buddies without Borders theme.

The Best Buddies Young Leaders Council’s Leadership Conference committee came up with the theme and coordinated logistics with both Katie Brydon and Mia Mulholland! The YLC consists of 24 exceptional student leaders. 11 new and 13 original members. Connor Regan, Conner Edwards, Caitlin Tran, Ashley Nowling, Marina Haley, Ryan Wirth, Elizabeth Klinepeter, Paul Gecewicz, Kayla Fox, Dani Wamund and Kaley Still are the existing members. The new members are Zach Curtis, Will Macon, Katie Whitney, Andre Williams, Julie Estrada, Fiona Hayden, Ellen Holbrook, Sophie Frank, Amanda Caroll and myself. The YLC attended the staff dinner on the first night and during the new dinner new YLC member Andre Williams shared his speech about how Best Buddies has impacted his life. Andre brought down the house and inspired staff members and his fellow YLC members alike. At the end of the dinner, music was turned up and several YLC members and staff members danced.

During Opening Ceremonies, Best Buddies International honored exceptional chapters and students for their hard work. Harbor Pilot Middle School received top honors of Overall Outstanding Middle School chapter, Cheshire High School received Overall Outstanding High School chapter, Riverdale Country School received Overall Outstanding Promoters chapter and Arizona State University took home Overall Outstanding College chapter.

Following the Outstanding Chapter awards, the Spirit of Courage was announced by Anthony Kennedy Shriver and the Board of Directors including YLC chair, Erica Brody. Erica received SEVERAL rounds of applause from the YLC and a few YLCers  told her how good she did. I was one of those people clapped for her and told her what a good job she did after she introduced the award and when she sat down with the YLC again. Best Buddies Kentucky’s own Buddy Ambassador Daniel Noltemeyer received the 2013 Spirit of Courage award for his hard work advocating for Best Buddies. Daniel will get to speak during Opening Ceremonies next year about how Best Buddies changed his life.

In addition, three states received Pacesetter awards for their Friendship Walk. Best Buddies Arizona was one of the state and I got go on stage to accept the award with BBAZ Deputy Director of Development Sam Mason. I told Sam that I always wanted to go on stage to accept an award. Kentucky, Indiana and Orlando, Florida all received Pacesetter plaques as well.

The YLC came in as friends and left as best friends. We look forward to continuing to building the friendships we made at LC through monthly YLC conference calls, monthly updates and writing letters and emailing. Connor Regan sent out a list of everyone’s contact info so we can keep in touch. The acceptance between the YLC and Best Buddies International wouldn’t be possible without Erica Brody, K Scarry and Jesse Warner who started the YLC! There were lots and lots of good laughs during YLC meetings and at lunch in the Indiana Memorial Union (IMU)! I ran into Tim Bolen from BBAZ one day at lunch and he said hi to me.

In addition to the several times I saw BBAZ and took pictures with staff from AZ  the conference allowed me to get to know several Program Managers who I had never met before like Megan Kelly and Alice Dannenberg. I also reconnected with all of the BBCA staff including Katelyn Bollenbacher and Jessica Foults. During the dance, BBTN Program Supervisor, Kristen Starcher and I took a picture together.

During Closing Ceremonies, Buddy Ambassadors from Maryland, Tennessee and other states spoke about the impact Best Buddies has had on their lives as individuals living with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Wayne Reed from Maryland spoke about how autism makes him feel awesome and how he loves Best Buddies. Best Buddies Nevada’s Buddy Talent  superstar, Michael Carlo, who had just joined Best Buddies in December and was matched then according to a Best Buddies Nevada staff member. Michael did an outstanding job performing and had the YLC dancing at one point. In conclusion after the Ambassador speeches and Michael’s performance, Best Buddies staff members performed their version of Carly Rae Jepsen’s popular song “Call Me Maybe” which they instead called “Call Me Buddy” and the YLC stood up and danced as well. The staff members were called the 89ers and one of the YLC members didn’t understand the origin of the name. I told her that 1989 was the year Best Buddies International was established.

Best Buddies YLC

YLC members, Sophie Frank and Lindsey Eaton, during LC.

Stay tuned for more post contributions from Lindsey and other YLC members on our blog!

We can also be found on twitter at

In friendship,

Caitlin Tran



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