Best Buddies Friendship Walks: Innovative Walks That Excite! By:Lindsey Eaton
The Best Buddies Friendship Walk is the biggest fundraiser for many of our state programs. Thousands of students, families, schools and volunteers come together each year in cities across the United States to fundraise for their states and spread awareness about the Best Buddies mission. The Best Buddies Young Leaders Council had the opportunity to help set up for the 2014 Best Buddies Leadership Conference Friendship Walk at Indiana University by chalking the walk path with phrases such as “I walk for inclusion” and “You can do it” and by setting up cones along the walk course.
Best Buddies Friendship Walks are something I hold VERY close to my heart since I have been on Best Buddies AZ’s Friendship Walk Committee for the past few years and I have been able to experience the drive and determination our committee has had to make the walk succeed above average in Arizona. In July 2013, our Friendship Walk received a “Pacesetter” award from Best Buddies International at the Leadership Conference along with many other states. This year is exceptional. We are driven to raise over $57,000 for the walk and so far we’ve raised $9,224. We’ve hosted two “give back nights” with the Phoenix Coyotes Hockey team and we have hosted our first annual Buddy Dash 5k run in partnership with Roadrunner Sports in Tempe, AZ.
With my experiences in mind, I decided to set out on a mission to collect highlights from a phenomenal group of student leaders who are passionate about Best Buddies at their schools and in their states. Below are statements from a few student leaders who share insights about experiences relating to Friendship Walks:
“This year, the Best Buddies chapter at Florida State University is working with the Jacksonville office, (Erika Hatch, area director) to put on the first-ever Tallahassee Friendship Walk. We have reached out to some parents of our members who are active members of the Tallahassee community and formed a committee that meets once a month to discuss outreach, planning, and fundraising. We have secured our location at a beautiful new park called Cascades Park on February 21st. Our website for the walk is now up and running, and to date, we have raised a little over $1,200. While we are proud of our money raised thus far, we still have a long way to go in order to reach our fundraising goal of $22,000. At our last meeting, we were granted an in-kind donation from the Tallahassee Democrat, who agreed to put two large adds in their newspaper and feature our event in the list of community events that they publish weekly prior to the weekends. Currently, we are working to finalize a location for our kick-off event that we have scheduled for January. An e-mail blast was sent out earlier this week and we hope that with this e-mail blast, more individuals will sign up. Further, we have reached out to the Florida State newspaper and are looking forward to having a story published in it after school gets back into session. We have been in contact with many local businesses as well and they will be making donations after the new year. With the help of Erika and the rest of our committee, our planning has continued to move along and we are very excited to see the finished product. The product of this walk is the hiring of a new part-time program manager for the Tallahassee and panhandle area of Florida. We are committed to making the first-ever Tallahassee Friendship Walk the best that it can be and appreciate the support we have received from Best Buddies and the Tallahassee community.”
– Skylar Warmund, Florida State University, Best Buddies Florida
“Well, the Friendship Walk was really fun first off! We had about 20-30 people from our chapter represent Eastern High School, and we won the award for raising the most money for the Friendship Walk as a group. There were mascots from several sponsors and different high school and college chapters were there. We had a pre-party with some music and snacks before the walk started. The walk was just a lap in Seneca Park, which was only maybe a mile, but it was really fun getting to meet people from other chapters and hanging out with people from our own chapter! Pizza was also provided to us after we finished walking.”
– Nicole Stephens, Eastern High School, Best Buddies Kentucky
“The Friendship Walk is one of Mesquite’s favorite Best Buddies events. We created our fundraiser called “the buddy chain” 2 years ago and it has raised over $2,000 for our chapter. The whole school gets involved and all of the classes are eager to support Best Buddies and raise the most money! Last year we won best school fundraiser at the walk and that was the greatest award we could have been given for our efforts in fundraising. The walk is not only an amazing way to bring our chapter together to support the Best Buddies mission, but our entire school. We cannot wait for the fundraiser this year and we are so excited for the walk!”
– Lauren Cantrell, Mesquite High School, Best Buddies Arizona
“The Friendship Walk was always held in April. There were a ton of food trucks and games. What all the BBTN schools did was for spread the word to end the word week everybody from the middle school, college, and high school chapters wrote their names on these links and all the presidents saved the links so at the walk we connected all the links and walked with it. Also, they presented awards and did raffles! On the walk itself, they had signs of pictures from our schools and their buddies so that was fun for everybody to see.”
– Ashlyn Anglim, Summit HS, Best Buddies Tennessee
“I love the Friendship Walks because everyone comes together for fun and inclusion. My family, friends, peers, and buddies all come to support me. It makes me so proud to be a part of Best Buddies. I walk with my U of L team and we all wear the same shirts. We have our team picture made under the balloon arch. My buddy and I had so much fun last year. She is awesome and we like to laugh and make up jokes. At the end of the walk we had pizza. And, there were door prizes and awards. Everyone was happy. I was also a volunteer at the Friendship Walk. I helped set up and organize the tables, food, and drinks. We even had thunder sticks to blow up. Everyone loved those.”
– Daniel Noltemeyer, University of Louisville, Best Buddies Kentucky