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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.
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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:

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Chapter Highlight of the Month: Chaparral High School

Whenever I’m at LC, I repeatedly hear one thing all weekend- “I wish we knew more about how other chapters run!” I couldn’t agree more and our answer to this request was Chapter Highlights! Each month, the YLC will be featuring one of our members on our blog to talk about their respective chapters.

This month, my good friend and Buddy Ambassador, Lindsey Eaton, shared with us some details on her chapter:

The Best Buddies chapter at Chaparral High School in Scottsdale, AZ, is truly all about inclusion and acceptance towards our students with intellectual and developmental disabilities. We have football players, baseball players and student government representatives’ register to join our chapter during our schools Club Rush club involvement fair.

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BBLC 2013- Our Inspiring Moments

LC 2013 may have been two months ago, but the memories have stuck with us! We were astounded by the amazing ideas shared and the immense number of student leaders in Indiana this year. As your chapters get back into the swing of things, make sure to keep the momentum strong and share the knowledge you learned at LC.

The YLC shares below their most inspirational moments from the conference:

“This year’s LC included a new session, the World Cafe, which allowed student leaders from around the world to join together in small groups to discuss the disability rights movement and our place as advocates and leaders in the movement.  I had the pleasure of facilitating two separate sessions, one with high school leaders and one with college leaders, and I was so incredibly inspired by the meaningful discussions that took place during each hour and a half session.  I don’t think there’s anything more inspiring than to take part in a conversation with 10 complete strangers from around the world who share the exact same passion and have so many wonderful insights and ideas of how to bring the disability rights movement to our local schools, communities, and the world.  I truly believe we will one day see a world where all people are accepted and included regardless of (dis)ability, and I know this because of the young leaders who inspired me so much during those sessions and throughout all of LC.” – Elizabeth Klinepeter

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Elizabeth leading a World Cafe session.

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Zach and Madeline

If you haven’t seen this awesome profile on YLC member, Zach, & his friendship with Madeline, check it out!

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What’s Your Best Buddies Resolution?

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As BBLC 2013 came to a close, we found ourselves doing something that normally doesn’t happen in July – writing New Year’s Resolutions!

We know what you’re thinking: “New Years in JULY? You silly YLC’ers… you’re about 6 months late on that one!” This may not be the start to a calendar year, but it’s the start of the Best Buddies year – and goals and resolutions were in order!

After Closing Ceremonies ended, over 1,700 student leaders, volunteers, and staff from Best Buddies International’s programs around the world made their way to the Alumni Hall to the annual Closing Dance which was themed this year as Best Buddies New Year’s! Accordingly, a wall of resolutions was started in which attendees were invited to write their Best Buddies Resolution for the coming year on a Post-It note to join a sea of colorful hopes for the future.

Below are a few standouts that caught my eye as we read over the hundreds.

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“Interact with local chapters more ❤  Watertown, CT.”

“Join the YLC as a middle schooler”

Both of these hit close to home. At my first LC, I was amazed at the number of students with similar passions who were at the conference – and those were just the leaders of chapters! I realized then that I had previously been missing out on a huge opportunity, not to mention a wealth of knowledge, that I could have been utilizing. LC gave me the means to connect to other chapter leaders in my area and we began exchanging ideas and even planning events together. The second resolution filled me with a different kind of excitement. As a member of the first group on the YLC, the 11 new faces we were able to gain this year was an inspiring eye opener. We were able to hear new perspectives from all different walks of life and I know that expanding membership to include middle schoolers will be invaluable in the future to the YLC.

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