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by CARLY DICKINSON   
Best Buddies Connecticut
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East Lyme High School Buddy Pair Chris & Ryan at the
2013 Cheshire Half Marathon & 5K
East Lyme High School Buddy Pair Chris and Ryan are getting pumped about running together at the Cheshire Half Marathon & 5K on Sunday, April 27, 2014.

"I had a great time running with Ryan last year, and we can't wait to do the 5K again this upcoming April. Not only did we get to run, but we had a fun time meeting other Best Buddies chapters and spending the day with our chapter," said Chris, who currently serves as the chapter's treasurer.

Ryan, who serves as the chapters buddy director, said, "I really liked running in the 5K last year with Chris because we both like to run. I love running with Chris, and I am really excited to run in the 5K again!"

Chris and Ryan will both be running with Team Best Buddies, which supports the programs and services of Best Buddies Connecticut, and at the same time raises fundamental awareness of our vital friendship and leadership programs.

Each Team Best Buddies runner agrees to raise a minimum of $250 for Best Buddies social inclusion programs throughout the state.

East Lyme buddy pair Gilette and Mike will be joining Chris and Ryan on Team Best Buddies this year.

Mike is new to Best Buddies this year, and he loves it. "I really like being in Best Buddies because it's really fun. I get to hang out with all my friends and meet new people. Gilette and I talk a lot, and we like to go out to get pizza. I think running in the Cheshire 5K will be fun, and it will be something my best buddy and I get to do together, which is awesome," he said.

East Lyme HS will also be sending their faculty advisor and another student, Amanda, to the Cheshire Half Marathon & 5K, along with a slew of supporters to cheer on their teammates along the route.

Want to join or support this energetic, fun-loving bunch of students? Make a donation or register for Team Best Buddies at www.bestbuddiesct.org/cheshire.

East Lyme High School Buddy Pair Gilette & Mike will be
running the Cheshire 5K in April.


Amanda (right) will also be running the Cheshire 5K in April. Here she is
pictured with her buddy, Emily.


The Best Buddies chapter at East Lyme, out at their most recent pizza night.
Support our friendship programs in Connecticut: DONATE or VOLUNTEER at Best Buddies today.


by CARLY DICKINSON   
Best Buddies Connecticut
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Ron helps Bruce get a good workout.
The below article was originally posted on our website in December of 2010. Best Buddies Connecticut would like to repost this story in honor of our 25th anniversary and the longest standing Citizens buddy pair in the state.

In 1995 Ron Pilkowicz volunteered for Special Olympics at the California World Games. He enjoyed the experience of working with people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, so his cousin recommended he call Best Buddies.

Bruce Epstein was living with his parents at the time and had been on the waiting list for a citizen buddy for a while. He and Ron were matched and thus began their Tuesday night tradition.

In the beginning, Bruce was noticeably insecure with the new friendship. “He would always find personal items to leave in my car so that I would have to come see him again,” recalls Ron, “He stopped doing that a while back. He doesn’t have to worry anymore.”

Since meeting [19] years ago, the Pair’s friendship has remained strong through life’s ups and downs. Ron was close with Bruce’s parents until they passed away.

After their passing, he helped Bruce transition into the group home where he currently lives. Ron keeps in touch with Bruce’s sisters – one lives in Orange, CT, and the other in Atlanta – and Bruce frequently comes to Ron’s home. Bruce says of Ron, “He made my life better. He’s one of my best friends. I like seeing him every Tuesday.”

Ron says Best Buddies is a very rewarding program to all involved, and it only takes a little bit of time. “Many people with intellectual disabilities don’t have common networking tools like the rest of us. It’s harder for them to reach out and find a friend.” Ron says it’s great to see how Bruce’s day brightens when the pair gets together and calls Bruce “the brother I never had”.

Ron and Bruce prepare a meal.
Support our friendship programs in Connecticut: DONATE or VOLUNTEER at Best Buddies today.


by LAUREN TOFOLOWSKY   
Best Buddies at E. O. Smith High School.
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E. O. Smith High School Buddy Pair Sean & Matt hit the slopes

Sean and Matt’s friendship has quickly become one of the most solid friendships in our chapter. Over the last few months they have become incredibly close and constantly remind others what Best Buddies is about. Matt and Sean talk and hang out all the time. They go to the movies together, cook together, eat lunch together, and even rescue people from snow banks together!

Recently, Sean and Matt went on a weekend ski trip together to Sugarloaf in Maine.  Sean skis at Sugarloaf every year with the Maine Handicapped Ski Program. Although Sean has been skiing several times, this was Matt’s first experience on the slopes! Sean made sure ‘his team’ followed closely behind Matt during his first trip down the mountain, so they could ski together.

Sean and Matt both thought it was funny when Matt wiped out several times. Matt and Sean also got to do other fun things together during their weekend adventure. They went out to dinner, had a snowball fight, went in hot tubs, and watched movies during the car ride.

Sean and Matt had an awesome weekend together. They not only developed their skiing skills, but also developed their friendship. It is clear that they have become the closest friends. Sean and Matt’s friendship is one that everyone aims to have, not just in Best Buddies, but in life. It is amazing the changes that can be seen in both students since being matched up together this school year.

Matt shared the following in his most recent friendship update:

“The more I hang out with Sean, the more I realize what Best Buddies is about. Yes, it is about building a connection with a person with disabilities that you wouldn’t normally interact with otherwise; but it's more than that. It is to be friends and build a bond that means the world to both you and your buddy. To be honest, I don’t think of Sean as a buddy anymore, he is closer to a best friend than anything else.”

Sean shared the following with asked about his friendship with Matt:

“My friend Matt and I went skiing in Maine. Even though he fell down a lot, I love to go skiing with Matt. It is awesome to have a friend like Matt because he makes me laugh. We have fun together.”

Support our friendship programs in Connecticut: DONATE or VOLUNTEER at Best Buddies today.


by CARLY DICKINSON   
Best Buddies Connecticut
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EKS Day group shot
On September 28, 2013, Special Olympics and Best Buddies commemorated the fourth annual Eunice Kennedy Shriver Day(EKS Day), bringing together people with and without intellectual and developmental disabilities to participate in sport and to honor Mrs. Shriver’s inspiration, impact and indomitable spirit. Eunice Kennedy Shriver founded Special Olympics, and her actions helped open the minds of all people to the gifts and talents of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

This year the celebration was hosted by Best Buddies Newtown High School at Treadwell Park on October 6. Newtown’s chapter president, Charlotte Gray, worked with her chapter’s advisors and BBCT staff to put on a wonderful event. Community members, families and students from other chapters throughout the state attended as well.

Activities included volleyball, soccer, parachute games, arts and crafts, flag football, a water balloon toss and even dancing! Burning Jamz Entertainment donated their services for the occasion.

It drizzled all day, but students and parents hardly noticed. It was hard to find someone without a big smile on their face, and everyone had a blast participating in all the activities and making new friends.

Attendees could also stop by the picnic table set up with all sorts of information about Eunice Kennedy Shriver and her legacy. People signed their names to the pledge to play unified and live unified.

Teddy bears were also given out as “birthday presents”, since EKS Day takes place on Eunice Kennedy Shriver’s birthday.

Thanks to all who worked hard to make this year's EKS Day happen, and thanks to all who attended!





Support our friendship programs in Connecticut: DONATE or VOLUNTEER at Best Buddies today.


by CARLY DICKINSON   
Best Buddies Connecticut
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Students danced the night away at the Friendship Walk Kick-off.
On September 20th, Quinnipiac University hosted a Friendship Walk kick-off party to celebrate and promote the upcoming Friendship Walk. Over 150 Best Buddies participants and their friends were in attendance.

The party took place in the Carl Hansen Student Center piazza. Students from several chapters throughout the state danced the night away and made new friends while their parents chatted with each other over dinner on the second floor.

Best Buddies Connecticut Advisory Board members invited their friends and families and joined the participants’ parents on the second floor.

Friendship Walk Chair Craig Montanari invited Diane L. Eger of Orange Insurance Center, Inc. She was inspired by Buddy Ambassador Brendan Lemieux’s moving speech about his Best Buddies story.

Not only did Diane decide to sponsor the Friendship Walk, but she is also exploring opportunities to connect BBCT to civic organizations such as the Rotary Club Interact.

DJing the dance party was Elias Birnbaum.

Throughout the night, attendees signed up for the Friendship Walk using a set of laptops in the lobby. Many new sign-ups came out of this exciting evening!

Have you signed up for the Friendship Walk yet? Do it today! We’ll start at 9:00 AM on Saturday, October 26that North Haven Middle School. Find out more information, donate or register at www.bestbuddiesct.org/walk.

Special thanks are extended to Best Buddies Quinnipiac and Advisory Board member Peg Anthony for all of the hard work that went into planning the Friendship Walk Kick-off!
Support our friendship programs in Connecticut: DONATE or VOLUNTEER at Best Buddies today.


by CARLY DICKINSON   
Best Buddies Connecticut
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Student leaders enthusiastically participated in World Café.
 
Over 150 student leaders from over 40 middle school, high school and college chapters attended Best Buddies Connecticut Local Leadership Training Day, hosted at Wesleyan University on September 14th.

Each Best Buddies chapter is led by an officer corps consisting of five positions: chapter president, buddy director, vice president, secretary and treasurer. In order for a chapter to run smoothly, each officer must fulfill his or her responsibilities and collaborate with the other officers.

Typically, the chapter president attends the Best Buddies International Leadership Conference at Indiana University, which takes place every July. Chapters are encouraged to send more student leaders, but most do not send their full officer corps.

That’s where Local Leadership Training Day comes in. Every member of the officer corps is asked to attend Local Leadership Training Day, where they are schooled in Best Buddies principals and are given the opportunity to network with student leaders from other chapters.

September 14, 2013 began with energizing music in the Exley Science Center lecture hall as students poured into their seats.

Best Buddies International’s Michael Pearson, Director of State Programs, led the first session on disability awareness. Students had been asking to know more about their buddy’s disabilities, and Michael addressed this.

“Everything you need to know about people with disabilities is going to be on the next slide,” he told the students, preparing them for some important information. He flipped to the next slide, which stated, “People with disabilities are people.”

Michael asked two students to come to the front of the lecture hall and demonstrate how two people become friends. They talked about their lives and asked each other questions until they found common interests – not once did one student ask if the other had a disability.

Next, Buddy Ambassador and former Newtown High School Buddy Director Aidan Pelisson spoke with the group about what a buddy director does. He was followed by Buddy Ambassador Brendan Lemieux’s session on the Buddy Ambassadors program and how chapters can be involved.

BBCT’s Lead Program Manager Emilie Latainer led a session on how to solicit in-kind donations for chapter events. Quinnipiac University student and star fundraiser Zach Zoccoli discussed fundraising for the Friendship Walk before the student leaders took their lunch break.

After lunch, student leaders came together for World Café, a series of roundtable discussions. They were placed in groups with officers from other chapters, and they spent the afternoon discussing their specific officer roles and how to encourage collaboration among the leadership within their chapters.

The end of World Café marked the end of Local Leadership Training Day, but many student leaders hung around to chat with each other and take pictures. The excitement and high energy of the group was palpable, and some students commented on how the day had been a mini-reunion and reminder of Leadership Conference.

With such a successful Local Leadership Training Day, BBCT programs are sure to have their best year yet!

Student leaders applauded their presenters in the morning sessions.
Support our friendship programs in Connecticut: DONATE or VOLUNTEER at Best Buddies today.


by CARLY DICKINSON   
Best Buddies Connecticut
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State Director Darlene Wolliston and Buddy Ambassador Brendan Lemieux
pose with some volunteers from Deloitte in Stamford.
Buddy Ambassador Brendan Lemieux has a touching story about the impact Best Buddies has had on his life. Best Buddies saved my life, he always tells his audience.

Brendan recently took his story to Deloitte in Stamford. Best Buddies Connecticut was connected with Deloitte thanks to 100 Women in Hedge Funds, who recently awarded a grant to Best Buddies International.

At the end of May, Brendan sat down with BBCT State Director Darlene Wolliston and a handful of women at Deloitte to share his Best Buddies story. Some of the women were in tears, and the mothers were inspired to inquire about getting Best Buddies chapters at their children's schools.

The Deloitte volunteers and Brendan then called all of the participants in last years Friendship Walk and thanked them for their generous support. Deloitte's thank-a-thon was crucial in kicking off the buzz about the Best Buddies Connecticut Friendship Walk 2013, which takes place on Saturday, October 26th at North Haven Middle School.

Deloitte not only helped BBCT connect with past supporters, but they also pledged $2,000 towards the Friendship Walk.

Best Buddies Connecticut would like to thank the ladies at Deloitte for their generosity in supporting and sustaining our 46 programs around the state.

As for Brendan, he will continue to spread his Best Buddies story far and wide in order to inspire as many future supporters as possible. He is an inspiration to us all!
Support our friendship programs in Connecticut: DONATE or VOLUNTEER at Best Buddies today.


by CARLY DICKINSON   
Best Buddies Connecticut
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Cate and Syd are the founding buddy pair of the chapter at Simsbury
High School. They have been best friends since first grade.
When Cate [who has an intellectual disability] was in first grade and in the hospital with pneumonia, we heard a little knock on Cates hospital door, and a tiny, cute, curly haired little girl came in and asked if she could visit with Cate.

She said her name was Sydney and that she was in Cates class (Syds mom worked at the adjacent hospital and had some work to do and Syd asked if she could go with her mom to work so she could visit her friend Cate who was in the hospital).

Syd stayed for the afternoon that day and visited with Cate in her hospital room (climbing in bed with her, eating fries, watching Scooby Doo). That day was almost 11 years ago and Syd and Cate are still best friends and have grown up together, sharing all the things that best friends, and acting in many ways, much like sisters.

As Cates mom, I dont remember a time when Syd was not part of our family picture. She was just naturally Cates friend. They were placed in the same class through the years in grade school and when I expressed concern to Syds mom that maybe that wasnt the best thing for Syd, Syds reaction was that of tears, b/c she couldnt imagine not being with Cate.

Well now Syd and Cate are in high school, about to be juniors and are still best friends. They make fun of each other, they laugh, they argue, they share friends, they share their lives, and in fact they just shared their sweet sixteen birthday party together.

Being social and making friends has been a strength of Cates, butI believe that a precedent was set at a very young age by Syd, a precedent that other kids followed when it came to being friends with Cate and seeing Cate, as well, just Cate. Syd and Cate are almost a tag team after all these years, and the friendship they have is special, itsunique, its lifelong and its wonderful.

So many parents of children with intellectual disabilities would mention how they wished their children had good friends, had natural friendships that were mutual. They would tell me how lucky Cate was to have Syd and I wished for each of those other children, that they would have a Syd too, that they would get to have just a natural, fun, lifelong friendship that my daughter Cate has.

When I heard about Best Buddies, I mentioned it to Syd and Cate and the seed was planted. Syd thought it would be a great thing to start at their high school and her and Cate could start it together. And my hopes of giving so many more young people, both with and without a disability, the gift of friendship. A gift that I too have been given in my lifetime, especially from my best friend Angela, who by the way, is also a skinny, curly haired girl who I met in first grade. Angela is my "Syd".

I hope Best Buddies at Simsbury High School grows into more than a club, I hope it becomes a movement of acceptance and natural friendship.

Cates mother, Noelle Alix, says that she does not remember a time
when Syd was not a part of our family picture


Syd & Cate woods


Syd & Cate St. Patricks Day


Cate and Syd

Support our friendship programs in Connecticut: DONATE or VOLUNTEER at Best Buddies today.


by CARLY DICKINSON   
Best Buddies Connecticut
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North Haven HS accepts the award for "BBO Guru"
Best Buddies Connecticut (BBCT) program participants and leaders have worked extremely hard throughout the 2012-2013 school year to foster strong one-to-one friendships between students with and without intellectual disabilities (IDD).

They have also worked extremely hard to spread the Best Buddies mission of friendship and leadership development throughout their clubs, schools, and surrounding communities through chapter activities and Spread the Word to End the Word campaigns.

The officer corps at Best Buddies Sacred Heart jumped on board to plan a volunteer reception that would demonstrate to students how much their dedication to the mission of friendship and leadership development is appreciated.

The volunteer reception took place in the Schine Auditorium at Sacred Heart University on the afternoon of May 5th.

The attendees snacked on refreshments, mingled, and admired photo collages of Best Buddies participants throughout the state.

Proud Best Buddies parents wore nametags identifying them as such.

At 2:15, the ceremony began with an opening speech by State Director Darlene Roberts. A slideshow of the year in pictures was played to cheerful music. Then the Sacred Heart officers got up in pairs and presented the awards.

Over 40 awards were given out to Best Buddies chapters and chapter members. These awards covered everything from "BBO Guru" to "Like a Rock" to "Chapter President of the Year" to "Buddy Ambassador of the Year".

Lifetime Achievement awards were given to East Lyme High School's Margaret Stracuzzi and Coventry High School's Robert Lundquist. You can read more about Robert's time with Best Buddies here.

Buddy Ambassador Samuel Smith tells his Best Buddies story.


The Sacred Heart University officer corps did an excelling job putting the event together!
Support our friendship programs in Connecticut: DONATE or VOLUNTEER at Best Buddies today.


by REBECCA HARRINGTON
Best Buddies Connecticut
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Buddy pair Rory Murphy and Carter Vail at Bowl for the Buds

Sunday November 11, 2012.


Buddy pair John Williams and Michael Shukovsky
With ten buddy pairs and 52 members, Wilton High School may not be the biggest Best Buddies chapter in Connecticut, but it fosters some of the most meaningful friendships.

Right from the match party, members were dedicated to the club and to each other. Even with the power outages and school cancellations caused by Hurricane Sandy, 70% of the buddy pairs followed through on their commitment to each other.

In October Maddie Hess and Annie Lynch were the strongest pair with 18 contacts and 3 activities, which included getting hot chocolate at Starbucks.

Wilton HS hosts monthly activities at the Wilton YMCA where buddy pairs can play basketball, swim and hang out. Wilton has also been involved in regional and state events.

Several students attended EKS Day, which was hosted by Staples High School in Westport. They brought 12 participants to Bowl for the Buds.

The success of Wilton’s Best Buddies chapter can be attributed to several factors. They have strong leadership and consistent meetings and chapter activities. Special Education Advisor Robin Twerdahl was instrumental in opening the chapter in 2004 and has remained at the helm since.

The chapter is also supported by Faculty Advisor Kent Smith. Chapter President Wyatt Lillie is a natural leader who is diligent about ensuring members are committed and buddy pairs are connecting. Everything is held together by the officer corps of John Williams, Lydia Freliech, Courtney Boepple, Annie Lynch, Carter Vail, Ryan Burke, Maddie Gillespie and Kate Ukropina.

Wilton High School Best Buddies has two upcoming events during the holiday season. On Saturday December 9, the chapter will go on a trip to the Danbury Fair Mall. Buddy pairs will bring their shopping lists and spend the afternoon together shopping for holiday gifts for their friends and family. The chapter will also hold a gift-wrapping fundraiser at the Westport Barnes and Noble on Saturday December 8 at 2:00 p.m.
Support our friendship programs in Connecticut: DONATE or VOLUNTEER at Best Buddies today.


by SAMUEL ROSS
Best Buddies Connecticut
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Caleb (left) and Brendan (right) working on Brendan’s Buddy Ambassadors speech during Local Leadership Training Day in September.
We at Best Buddies Connecticut would like to honor a wonderful buddy pair in our Citizens program: Caleb Lloyd and Brendan Lemieux!

Brendan is a member of the famous Kandoo Band and was once involved in the Best Buddies chapter at Yale. Caleb and Brendan were matched because of their love of music. They hit it off right from their match meeting, when they jammed in Brendan’s music studio.

The pair attends concerts around the New Haven area on a regular basis together. Brendan’s love of ink brought them to an art show at a tattoo parlor. They enjoy going out for sushi, and Brendan got Caleb volunteering at an animal hospital. When Caleb’s parents were visiting from Ohio, Brendan’s parents invited them over for dinner.

In September of this year, Brendan and Caleb attended the Buddy Ambassadors workshop at Local Leadership Training Day (LLTD) at Wesleyan. With Caleb’s help as a speech coach, Brendan gave a moving speech about the impact Best Buddies has had on his life.

Caleb and Brendan are a great example of the successful social inclusion of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities that our adult friendship program strives for. Congratulations go to this awesome buddy pair!
Support our friendship programs in Connecticut: DONATE or VOLUNTEER at Best Buddies today.


by ELEANOR POWELL
Best Buddies Connecticut
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In fall 2011, Best Buddies Connecticut was chosen along with BB Arizona and BB Texas to pilot a new Best Buddies training initiative.

The Global Volunteer Training (GVT) model was created as a way to ensure consistent messaging and training for all Best Buddies volunteers. The project began with a committee of program managers from around the country.

In Connecticut, five schools were selected to receive GVT. After they received the training, participants gave feedback in a survey through Best Buddies International.

The feedback from participants with and without disabilities helped the GVT team update and improve the training materials for 2012-2013.

This fall, all program managers (PMs) across the U.S. selected three to five of their schools to receive the training. The PMs will continue to facilitate separate GVT trainings for Best Buddies volunteers with and without disabilities at each of their selected school chapters.

Because BBCT trained five schools in 2011-2012, the state staff was asked to choose four college buddy directors (CBDs) to participate in the next phase of the pilot roll-out. CBDs were chosen from Eastern Connecticut State University, Quinnipiac University, University of Hartford, and Yale University.

These student leaders were asked to facilitate the GVTs themselves at their chapters. They attended a session during the July Leadership Conference at Indiana University with a CBD from Arizona, where they were trained to facilitate GVT for their members without disabilities.

BBCT would like to thank all the schools in Connecticut that are participating in GVT this year for their time and feedback. This will allow all the state offices to train more CBDs to facilitate GVT in fall 2013.
Support our friendship programs in Connecticut: DONATE or VOLUNTEER at Best Buddies today.


by CARLY DICKINSON
Best Buddies Connecticut
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Darien High Best Buddies at Bowl for the Buds 2011
Its that time again! The school buses are back out on the roads, and the college students are back in town.

Things on the to-do list include stock up on school supplies, find some snazzy new outfits for the year, and get ready for the Best Buddies Connecticut Inclusion Revolution of 2012-2013.

The year will kick off with Local Leadership Training Day 2012 on September 15th at Wesleyan University. Energetic student leaders from around the state will congregate to discuss the exciting things their chapters will accomplish this year.

Buddy ambassadors will spend the day writing inspiring speeches to be delivered at the end of the day to all participants. To RSVP to Local Leadership Training Day, please contact your program manager or call our office at 203.234.3996. We cant wait to see you there!

In September and October we will see lots of fun events. Each school will be recruiting new members, holding organizational meetings, and planning match parties that will introduce many long-lasting friendships.

September 22nd marks the third annual Eunice Kennedy Shriver (EKS) Day. EKS was the founder of Special Olympics and the mother of Best Buddies founder and chairman, Anthony Kennedy Shriver.

EKS Day commemorates her inspiring life and all she did for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. All chapters are asked to perform acts of unity and inclusion on this day.

To find out more about how you can celebrate EKS Day, please contact your program manager or call our office at (203)v234-3996.

The Best Buddies Connecticut annual Bowl for the Buds will take place on Sunday, October 21st. Energetic Best Buddies participants and community supporters will have the opportunity to bowl from 1:00 p.m. 2:00 p.m. or from 2:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. at AMF Lanes in Milford.

All proceeds will go to support our existing friendship programs. A good time will be had by all. So come join us! For more information about Bowl for the Buds, please contact our offices at 203.234.3996.

Be on the lookout for more information and upcoming events on our webpage! Its going to be an incredible year!
Support our friendship programs in Connecticut: DONATE or VOLUNTEER at Best Buddies today.


by CARLY DICKINSON
Best Buddies Connecticut
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Three generations of BBCT Buddy Ambassadors at the first annual Alumni Reception, Dennis Fitzpatrick, 2011, Brendan Lemieux, 2012, and Albert Lognin, 2010.
BBCT continued its ongoing efforts to reconnect with alumni on Friday, April 27th with an alumni reception at the Whitney Center in Hamden. The reception was organized by a group from the Greater New Haven Chamber of Commerce Leadership Class of 2012.

The reception was the culminating event in the leadership group’s alumni outreach project. Over the past several months, they’d been working with BBCT staff to assemble a BBCT alumni board and plan the reception.

The reception began with a cocktail hour where former and current Best Buddies participants had the chance to mingle. John Monico, BBCT Advisory Board Chair, gave the opening remarks, and Emilie Latainer, Sacred Heart University BBCT Alumni, spoke on behalf of the newly-formed alumni board.

Four were presented throughout the night. Alison Whyte was named Volunteer of the Year for her hours of dedication and assistance to the Buddy Ambassador program in CT.

Alison also has a buddy in the Citizens program. The award for Community Advocate of the Year went to Brendan LeMieux, a member of the Kandoo Band. The Kandoo Band is a group of very talented musicians who all have disabilities and do shows around the state and the country to spread disability awareness.

Brendan will also be trained as a Buddy Ambassador at Leadership Conference in July. Irina Anta, a former Best Buddies chapter president from San Francisco and former Yale college buddy director, was named Alumni of the Year. Irina will be studying immigration law so that she can “focus on deportation cases for low-income immigrants in detention and young college students who would be eligible for the DREAM Act.”

The top honor, the Best Buddies Connecticut Leadership Award, was awarded to Albert Lognin, a buddy at Trinity College. Albert was one of the first buddies in the state in 1990. Since then, he has been an integral part of the disability awareness movement. He’s been a strong advocate to end the r-word and has taken on leadership roles in his college chapter and at HARC, and has been trained as a Buddy Ambassador.

Mike Ricci, a BBCT board member gave a fantastic closing speech, tying Best Buddies in with all of the other movements and organizations started by the Kennedy family, including the Peace Corps. Everyone left knowing that they were part of a huge movement to empower people, and it was the perfect start to a successful Friendship Weekend.
Support our friendship programs in Connecticut: DONATE or VOLUNTEER at Best Buddies today.


by W. CURTIS REED
Best Buddies Connecticut
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Melissa Izzo, Brendan LeMieux, Jim Hawley, and Jim Boyce were incredible guest judges for the event.


The performers, emcees, and judges of the show all pose for a picture after announcing the first, second, and third place winners.


Our two incredible emcees, Logan West, Miss Connecticut Teen USA 2012, and Rashad Murrell, a Buddy Ambassador and participant from Sacred Heart University, pose for a picture after the show.
On February 26, 2012, Best Buddies Connecticut hosted their second annual Talent Showcase Extravaganza at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, CT.

The event served as a kick off to Best Buddies Month, (March), and was incorporated to celebrate the talents and abilities of all our participants in Connecticut.

Over 140 people came out to the event to show their support Best Buddies programs and people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Multiple chapters were represented at the Talent Showcase Extravaganza including: North Branford High School, Joseph A. Foran High School, Staples High School, Brien McMahon High School, Central Connecticut State University (CCSU), Quinnipiac University, Yale University and Sacred Heart University.

In an effort to continue to spread awareness of Best Buddies throughout the state, the Talent Showcase Extravaganza also garnered support from Citizens participants, alumni from Sacred Heart University Best Buddies, parents, siblings, and volunteers.

Emily Gillette, from the office of Alumni Affairs at Sacred Heart University, was generous enough to help supply food for the reception and help to spread awareness of the event to Sacred Heart alumni.

The show was hosted by Logan West, Miss Connecticut Teen USA 2012, and Rashad Murrell, a Buddy Ambassador and participant from the Sacred Heart University chapter. Rashad impressed the judges at the 2011 Talent Showcase Extravaganza with his original rap music.

For the 2012 Talent Showcase Extravaganza, Best Buddies Connecticut welcomed Rashad back as not only an emcee for the event, but also as a performer. Both emcees, Rashad and Logan, were able to perform their incredible talents on stage with the other brave participants from around the state. Logan West performed a graceful and impressive lyrical dance, and Rashad Murrell shared his original and inspirational music with the crowd.

Tisha Denny, a buddy from North Branford High School who took third place in the 2011 Talent Showcase Extravaganza, won first place this year with her wonderful performance of Anne Hathaway’s cover, “Somebody to Love”. Dragen Lesko, a buddy from Staples High School, performed “Billie Jean” by Michael Jackson and was awarded second place.

Dragen came in full Michael Jackson costume and impressed the judges with his dance moves and spirit. Anthony Mickle Jr., a buddy from Brien McMahon High School, was awarded third place for his incredible dance skills.

Best Buddies Connecticut would like to sincerely thank all the performers, attendees, and volunteers that helped to make this event successful.
Support our friendship programs in Connecticut: DONATE or VOLUNTEER at Best Buddies today.


by ELEANOR POWELL
Best Buddies Connecticut
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IMG_2792
Spread the Word to End the Word Day is March 7th, 2012


Come join us for the BBCT Talent Showcase Extravaganza on Sunday, February 26th at Sacred Heart University.
Spread the Word to End the Word (STW/ETW) is an ongoing effort by Best Buddies, Special Olympics, and our supporters to raise the consciousness of society about the dehumanizing effects of the word “retard(ed)” and to encourage people to pledge to stop using the R-word.

Spread the Word to End the Word began under the leadership of two college students in 2009 and has become a powerful global movement in just three years.

While the Spread the Word to End the Word movement is a year-long campaign to raise awareness, the first Wednesday of every March is our official annual day of activism.

This year STW/ETW Day will be on Wednesday, March 7th 2012. People from around the globe will collect pledges from family, friends, and community members and encourage everyone to use respectful and inclusive language. The STW/ETW movement has already collected over 230,000 pledges online and continues to expand each day.

Best Buddies Connecticut participants and friends continue to support the STW/ETW campaign. Chapters host creative awareness-building activities in their schools and communities. Suffield High School is planning to host information tables about the initiative during lunch waves and pass out ribbons to those who pledge to stop using the R-word.

Sacred Heart University has plans to collect signatures on a large pledge banner that can be showcased on campus. Darien High School is planning to make a video for STW/ETW, which will be shown to the entire high school during the school’s morning news. Several chapters have ordered STW/ETW merchandise to sell at their schools to spread awareness.

In addition to Spread the Word to End the Word Day, March is also Best Buddies month. In March, buddy pairs are encouraged to celebrate the outstanding friendships they have made this year.

It is also an opportunity to spread awareness about the organization and the mission of Best Buddies within our schools and communities. The Best Buddies Connecticut office will be hosting a Talent Showcase Extravaganza on Sunday, February 26th to kick off Best Buddies month.

This event is a great way for participants to get excited about Best Buddies month and celebrate the wonderful talents of all our participants. Quinnipiac University will be hosting a STW/ETW table at the Talent Showcase to provide more information about the initiative. For additional details, please visit our facebook page. We hope to see you there!

To learn more about Spread the Word to End the Word, please visit www.r-word.org. The “Resources” section of the website has excellent links to all sorts of materials you may need to host your own STW/ETW campaign and collect pledges in your community!
Support our friendship programs in Connecticut: DONATE or VOLUNTEER at Best Buddies today.


by CAROLINE DICKINSON
Best Buddies Connecticut
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Buddy pair Noel and Paul at last year’s BBCT Citizens holiday potluck.


Buddy pair Linda and Margaret at last year’s BBCT Citizens holiday potluck.
So here we are. 2012 has arrived, and many of us are enthusiastically working on our New Year’s resolutions.

Most of these resolutions involve changing our lives in positive ways and becoming better people. If you are a community member with this type of resolution, come join Best Buddies!

What better way to start the New Year than by gaining a new friend? Best Buddies Citizens currently has a waiting list of over 80 people with intellectual and developmental disabilities who are waiting for someone like you.

All they ask is for one phone call per week and a chance to hang out twice per month with a new friend. These individuals live all over the state, so if you’re ready to give the gift of friendship in the coming year, there is probably a person with an intellectual or developmental disability in your area in need of your company.

What does it mean to give the gift of friendship in Best Buddies Citizens? It means you will be matched with a person with an intellectual or developmental disability in your community who shares your interests and is close to you in age.

After an initial match meeting, you and your buddy will decide on the kinds of things you want to do and when you can do them. Common buddy pair activities include going to the movies, eating out, picnicking, cooking together, going to local sports games, going to free concerts, reading at the library, and generally having a good time.

You and your buddy will communicate once a week via phone, text, facebook, or e-mail, so that your friendship continues to develop between outings.

And if you’re like most Citizens participants, both you and your buddy will see your lives change for the better because of this new friendship.

So, are you ready to start on your New Year’s resolution? Call Citizens Program Manager Carly Dickinson at (203) 234-3996 or carolinedickinson@bestbuddies.org for more information and to get started.

We can’t wait to hear from you!
Support our friendship programs in Connecticut: DONATE or VOLUNTEER at Best Buddies today.


by W. CURTIS REED
Best Buddies Connecticut
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Welcome to 2012! We hope everyone had a great new year and that you are finally getting back into the swing of things. Best Buddies Connecticut is gearing up for another exciting year and we can’t wait to visit all of our incredible school chapters.

The Program Managers are anxiously waiting for the chapter’s second semester calendars, and are eager to see what the students have planned for their back-to-school activities!

So as you trickle back into the daily grind, please don’t forget to keep the mission of Best Buddies in mind.

Even though 2012 is a new year, we want our student leaders to continue to be “Empower Rangers” within their schools and communities. Don’t forget BBCT’s five parts of Empowerment: Accept, Respect, Advocate, Educate, and Inspire. It’s all about the buddies!

The year 2012 is going to be a busy and eventful year for Best Buddies Connecticut and we expect the semester to fly by. So keep an eye out for information on all of BBCT’s upcoming events like, the second annual “Talent Showcase Extravaganza”, our annual Friendship Walk with an added location in Westport, CT, and a special “Volunteer Appreciation” night to recognize all our dedicated participants.

Best Buddies Connecticut wishes everyone a successful and prosperous 2012! Keep us posted on all you are doing in your schools and communities to spread the Best Buddies’ mission and don’t forget to support our upcoming state events and fundraisers. We sincerely appreciate all your hard work and support during 2011… let’s make 2012 another successful year!
Support our friendship programs in Connecticut: DONATE or VOLUNTEER at Best Buddies today.


by CASSANDRA HENDERSON
Best Buddies Connecticut
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Buddies and Peer Buddies at the Mohegan Sun Casino for the Chris Brown Concert

The Darien High School chapter of Best Buddies Connecticut (BBCT) won tickets to the Chris Brown Concert at the Mohegan Sun Arena.

Chris Brown generously donated 12 tickets to BBCT and asked that five buddy pairs, one parent, and one advisor attend the show.

BBCT Program Managers (PMs) had a difficult time choosing a chapter to receive this prize, so they created a competition instead. The PMs opened the competition to all high school and college chapters in the state.

Chapters were given a question to answer regarding how Best Buddies was changing the culture of their school and/or the environment of the greater community. Chapters were encouraged to answer the question creatively and submissions ranged from scrapbooks and essays to videos.

The Darien High School chapter opened at the beginning of the 2011-2012 school year and had the challenging task of describing how they envisioned their chapter affecting change upon their school and community in the future.

The Darien chapter put together an amazing video, which showcased their accomplishments so far this year as well as highlighting how they wish to impact those around them.

The Program Managers were very impressed with the video and, while there were several other excellent submissions, ultimately picked Darien as the winner of the tickets. The PMs were thoroughly amazed by the chapter’s understanding of the mission and their dedication to promoting inclusion in their school.

On Sunday, October 30th, ten Buddies and Peer Buddies, including Chapter President, Courtney Kyritz, went to the Chris Brown concert accompanied by Special Education Advisor, Kate Curcio, and a parent.

The participants were able to travel together to the concert thanks to a generous parent donating a bus for the event. The Buddy Pairs had an amazing time at the concert, singing, dancing, and getting to know each other.

One of the Buddies, Siddharth Verma said, "I had fun. I got to hang out with Kelly!” [his Peer Buddy]. Another Buddy, Darya von Schmidt, an avid Chris Brown fan said, “I loved when Chris Brown sang ‘She Ain’t You’!”

Advisor Kate Curcio had nothing but wonderful things to say about the chapter members:

“We had a blast at the concert. The kids had so much fun and were really impressed with Chris's singing and dancing. I am so proud of all of them and so impressed with the kindness and concern that they showed toward each other as we navigated our way through the crowds of people and crazed fans.

"The concert was a fantastic way for the Buddies and the Peer Buddies to interact and spend time together. Even the bus ride up to Mohegan Sun served as a great way for the students to interact and converse. We all learned some great facts and details about each other as we shared stories and adventures on the bus.

"Ann [the Faculty Advisor] and I are so impressed with the video that our students made to win the concert tickets, but we are more impressed with the way that they made it. The amount of planning, teamwork, and time that went in to making the video is impressive.

"It is evident in the video that the students feel very strongly about friendship, community, and their buddies. While it was exciting to win the concert tickets, it was more exciting as an advisor to watch our students come together and overcome invisible boundaries.”

The Darien chapter, its student leaders, advisors, and participants have demonstrated their strong commitment to the Best Buddies mission in only a few short months. BBCT staff congratulates the chapter on their incredible success so far this year!

Support our friendship programs in Connecticut: DONATE or VOLUNTEER at Best Buddies today.


by ELEANOR POWELL
Best Buddies Connecticut
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Boy Scout and Best Buddies participant, Alexander, poses with his peer buddy, Maddy
Members of the Boy Scouts work to receive merit badges to represent their projects and community service. On October 15th, the Boy Scout of Eastern Fairfield County gathered to fulfill the requirements for the “Disabilities Awareness” badge.

In order to receive the badge, scouts have to learn about an organization that works with people with disabilities, volunteer with people with disabilities and learn to use person first language, among other requirements.

A troop leader and parent of a Best Buddies participant contacted Fairfield County program manager, Casey Henderson, asking her to present on Best Buddies and disability awareness as part the 2011 Fall Camporee.

Over 200 scouts ages 11-16 participated in the camporee to earn their “Disabilities Awareness” merit badge. One of the Boy Scouts, Alexander, is also a Best Buddies participant at Staples High School. His buddy and another chapter member stopped in to show their support for Alexander and to represent Best Buddies programs.

Best Buddies CT staff taught the scouts about Best Buddies programs, the disability rights movement, and the importance of language. Every scout received a handout about person first language and disability etiquette to help fulfill their requirements for the badge.

At the end of the presentation, scouts learned about ways to get involved in the disability awareness movement and Best Buddies. Some scouts told their troops about Spread the Word to End the Word campaigns at their schools and suggested that other students did the same.

BBCT staff had an amazing time meeting the scouts and helping to spread disability awareness. Before they left, the staff members were even presented with “Disabilities Awareness” badges of their own!
Support our friendship programs in Connecticut: DONATE or VOLUNTEER at Best Buddies today.


by CAROLINE DICKINSON
Best Buddies Connecticut
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Citizens Buddy Pair Rod & Ryan after touring a tractor trailer together.
We’ve missed you, Best Buddies alumni! Many working professionals and recent grads may be familiar with Best Buddies, an international organization that creates one-to-one friendships between people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and volunteers in the community.

Chapters of the program operate on 54 middle school, high school and college campuses around the state. If you were a part of one of these chapters, we want you back!

Currently, Best Buddies Citizens, the community-based version of the program, is recruiting recent college graduates and working professionals to be matched in friendships with people with intellectual and developmental disabilities throughout the state.

Read more about a special Citizens Buddy Pair in the community and contact the Best Buddies CT State office at (203) 234-3996 and ask for Carly to learn more about impacting the life of someone with an intellectual or developmental disability!

Ryan and Rod have been friends for three years. In that time, they’ve developed a fun, genuine friendship. They’ve gone on a number of excursions, including a monster truck rally, the Big E, and even a tour of a tractor trailer.

Often times they stick close to home, grabbing a bite at the local deli or a burger at Five Guys. And if food is not on the agenda, they head to the gym or the arcade.

Ryan and Rod met through Best Buddies Citizens, a program that matches adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities in one-to-one friendships with adult volunteers in their communities. Ryan is an enthusiastic Best Buddies supporter, and last summer he hosted a cookout for all statewide Citizens pairs at the West Haven beach.

He and Rod put up luau decorations and collaborated with other Citizens members to throw a relaxing beachside party. Ryan and Rod are just two of almost 100 people impacted by the Citizens program in Connecticut.

Best Buddies Citizens volunteers range from recent grads and young professionals to parents to retirees, and they hail from all over the state of Connecticut. They are matched based on age, gender, and location. The Citizens program is very flexible in order to accommodate for working professionals’ busy lives.

Buddy pairs make their own decisions on what they will do and when they will do it. Common buddy pair activities include going to the movies, eating out, picnicking, cooking together, going to local sports games, going to free concerts, reading at the library, and generally having a good time.

Best Buddies Citizens is currently recruiting new volunteers. There are over 80 people with intellectual and developmental disabilities on the Citizens waiting list, and each one of them is ready for a new friend. Best Buddies alumni – this is your chance to connect with a new Buddy! Your gift of friendship will make a world of difference.

This opportunity is open for everyone, so even those not familiar with Best Buddies should get involved. For more information or to be matched with a Buddy, contact Citizens Program Manager Carly Dickinson at (203) 234-3996 or carolinedickinson@bestbuddies.org. You can also contact us on our Facebook page, click the “Alumni Tab”.

Best Buddies also holds a number of exciting statewide events open to the public. Upcoming events include our Recipe for Friendship Chef Challenge on December 12, our Talent Showcase Extravaganza in March and the annual Friendship Walk on April 28. For more information on how to participate in upcoming events, contact Nikki Besitko at (203) 234-3996 or nikkibesitko@bestbuddies.org. You can also visit www.bestbuddiesct.org and fill out a volunteer form, indicating how you would like to get involved.

So come join Ryan and Rod and the rest of the Citizens buddy pairs. Give the gift of friendship, have fun, and change a life.
Support our friendship programs in Connecticut: DONATE or VOLUNTEER at Best Buddies today.


by W. CURTIS REID
Best Buddies Connecticut
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The BBCT Staff, (from l to r), Curtis Reid, Nikki Besitko, Carly Dickinson, Melissa Izzo, Sarah Morocco, Casey Henderson, and Eleanor Powell all pose for a picture after training their incredible student leaders during BBCT’s “Local Leadership Training Day 2011”!


Carly Dickinson, the Citizens Program Manager, poses with BBCT’s five amazing Buddy Ambassadors and their speech coaches who wrote, practiced, and presented speeches during the training. 
“Local Leadership Training Day” is an opportunity for Best Buddies leaders across the state to come together and learn how to manage their Best Buddies chapters.

On September 10, 2011, student leaders from eighteen high schools and nine colleges in Connecticut were in attendance for the event and many schools brought their entire officer corps!

The training day is essential for student leaders to gain knowledge on their specific chapters, but also provided parents a great opportunity to learn more about the incredible social inclusion programs that Best Buddies offers within Connecticut.

Nikki Besitko, the State Director of Best Buddies Connecticut, opened the training with a presentation about the importance of fundraising for Best Buddies programs and supporting state events.

Multiple topics were covered in this session including, state funding, corporate and individual sponsorships, the importance of parent involvement, and new opportunities to get involved with BBCT’s event committees.

After the general session with Nikki Besitko, attendees separated into their respective education tracks (High School, Colleges, Advisors), to discuss Best Buddies basics with the BBCT Staff.

Eleanor Powell, Lead Program Manager for the New Haven area, trained college participants as Casey Henderson and Curtis Reid, Lead Program Managers for the Fairfield and Hartford regions, respectively, educated the high school students about topics like, working with key players, fundraising, communication, and planning activities.

As the student sessions wereunderway, Carly Dickinson,  Citizens Program Manager, and Melissa Izzo, Development Coordinator, worked with our talented Buddy Ambassadors and their speech coaches. The Ambassadors presented their speeches to everyone at the end of the training day in order to tie in the importance of continuous advocacy and appreciation for Best Buddies as an organization.

For the first time at “Local Leadership Training Day”, BBCT incorporated an “Advisor Track” for faculty members and parents who felt compelled to learn more about involvement opportunities and Best Buddies Connecticut programs. Their attendance and participation was a huge asset to the training day.

Best Buddies Connecticut is excited to have these dedicated volunteers heading into their communities to advocate for Best Buddies programs and people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). The participation and contributions of our volunteers will truly help to promote the goal of inclusion while improving BBCT’s events throughout the year.

One of the main activities that BBCT will be hosting this fall is the, “Bowl for the Buds” event, being held on October 23, 2011 at “AMF” in both Milford and East Hartford, CT. Teams of four can purchase a lane – for a one hour session of bowling – for $100 ($25 per person).

Teams can also purchase signage for their lane for an additional $25. For more information or to register for this event, please visit: www.bestbuddiesct.org/bowl. All money raised from this event goes to support social inclusion programs for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in our state!

Thank you to all student leaders, advisors, ambassadors, and parents who made Local Leadership Training Day 2011 a success! Best Buddies Connecticut sincerely appreciates the time and support you have provided to making a difference in the lives of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. We look forward to another great year with Best Buddies Connecticut!
Support our friendship programs in Connecticut: DONATE or VOLUNTEER at Best Buddies today.


by W. CURTIS REID
Best Buddies Connecticut
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Buddy Ambassadors and speech coaches (L to R): Melissa Izzo, Kristin Cretella, Gabby Russell, Jackie Mingle, Lindsey Raffol, Alana Gonzalez, Carly Dickinson, Rashad Murrell, Alison Whyte, Bill Berry, Kristen Pesavento, Charlie Benzyk, and Dennis Fitzpatrick.
September 10, 2011 marked BBCT’s second annual Buddy Ambassador training. Five Buddy-Ambassadors-in-training and five new speech coaches made for an energetic group.

Also helping out was Alison Whyte, a Best Buddies Connecticut volunteer who has run leadership trainings for high school students with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

After some energizing ice breakers, the group watched a well-known YouTube video of a man named David Egan giving an exemplar testimony in front of Congress. David’s testimony was chosen for this training because of its potential to change legislation.

David works for Booz Allen Hamilton and has an intellectual disability. He spoke about his role at the company, where he is given real purpose and not just included on their roster.

He asked that Congress consider encouraging employers to not only hire people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, but also to include them in the corporate family and allow them to contribute to the welfare of the company.

At the end of the video, the Buddy Ambassadors and speech coaches discussed what they liked about the speech and why they felt so moved by it.

In the afternoon, the Buddy Ambassadors put their heads together with their speech coaches and hammered out speeches of their own. They covered a variety of interesting topics. Gabby talked about adjusting to a new life and making new friends after moving to the U.S. from South America.

Jackie talked about an accident she had as a child and how hard she worked to walk and talk again. She told of how proud she was to get through high school and become the person she is today. Rashad was clearly comfortable in front of the crowd and talked about the positive role Best Buddies played in his life.

Bill spoke about why people should stop using the R-word. Dennis also talked about the effects of the R-word. He grew up in the 70s, and hearing the word used to send him home in tears. Since then, he had advocated for the end of the R-word, but he also forgives the people who say it.

After practicing a few times with the small group, the Buddy Ambassadors gave their speeches to all the attendees at Local Leadership Training Day, where they were greeted with applause.

The new Buddy Ambassadors are already gearing up for future BBCT events. They are excited to represent themselves and Best Buddies, and their speech coaches are eager to help them perfect their speeches.

Trainings will continue throughout the year so that our Buddy Ambassadors can continue to refine their new skills. We can't wait to hear our Ambassadors stories throught the year!
Support our friendship programs in Connecticut: DONATE or VOLUNTEER at Best Buddies today.


by CURTIS REID
Best Buddies Connecticut
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John Monico, Advisory Board Chair for Best Buddies Connecticut (far left), and Nikki Besitko, State Director for Best Buddies Connecticut (far right), stand with Tina Martire, the Host-Site Coordinator from Sacred Heart University, Frank Kuan, the Faculty Advisor from Wesleyan University, and Kathleen Mezerewski, the Special Education Advisor from North Branford High School, as they are presented with “Ten Years of Service” awards for Best Buddies CT.

(Photo Credit:  Steve Cooper, SM Cooper Photography)



Francene Goldstein (third from the left) and Michael DeFelice (center), Advisors from Shelton High School, were presented with “Outstanding Advisor of the Year” Awards, alongside their colleagues.

(Photo Credit:  Steve Cooper, SM Cooper Photography)


Closing speakers Stephen Halper and Samantha Logsdon, a Buddy Pair from the Southern Connecticut State University chapter, discussed the importance of Best Buddies’ Advisors and their roles as dedicated volunteers.

(Photo Credit:  Steve Cooper, SM Cooper Photography)
Best Buddies Connecticut has the honor of working with extremely dedicated volunteers. Over the last decade, the Special Education Advisors and Faculty Advisors for Best Buddies Connecticut have shown incredible support for the growing organization.

They consistently collaborate with student leaders in their school chapters, and continuously work towards the goal of inclusion while acting as a role model for chapter members.

In order to express gratitude and appreciation for these incredible volunteers, the Best Buddies Connecticut office held their first annual Advisor Appreciation Breakfast on July 13th, at the Omni Hotel in New Haven.

The advisors in attendance were provided with a breakfast, Best Buddies pins, a raffle, and opportunities to network with other advisors from around the state.

Over fifty advisors were present for the event. Multiple individuals were recognized for their outstanding service to the non-profit dedicated to providing opportunities for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD).

Christine Jakubiec, Sandy Bonfiglio, Johnny Scafidi, Larissa Gionfriddo, Patty McQuone, Michael DeFelice, and Francene Goldstein, were awarded as “Outstanding Advisors of the Year” and received a clock engraved with their name and the Best Buddies logo.

All advisors who had been with Best Buddies for over ten years also received a clock and certificate for their contributions.

Several advisors were awarded with superlative awards, ranging from, “Most Dedicated” to “Outstanding Support to BBCT” to “The One Woman Show” Award. All award recipients were photographed with Best Buddies Connecticut State Director, Nikki Besitko, and the Advisory Board Chair, John Monico.

The breakfast was a perfect time for Connecticut’s advisors to reflect on the mission of Best Buddies, and for BBCT to acknowledge their hard work throughout the last several years. Without the fantastic contributions of our advisors, Best Buddies would not be making strides towards the goal of inclusion.

Best Buddies Connecticut programs are in several locations throughout the state, so it is rare to find multiple Advisors in the same room at one time. The event served as a great opportunity for these advisors to network and become acquainted with each other.

Best Buddies encourages chapters to hold joint activities throughout the school year, and this breakfast was an effective way for advisors to form important connections. Many schools are already planning activities together for 2011-2012, and Best Buddies Connecticut is excited to see these new relationships blossom.

Best Buddies Connecticut would like to express a sincere “Thank You” to all Best Buddies advisors and volunteers. Their involvement, positive energy, and consistent support are greatly appreciated, and we look forward to hosting another Advisor Appreciation event in the future.
Support our friendship programs in Connecticut: DONATE or VOLUNTEER at Best Buddies today.


by ELEANOR POWELL
Best Buddies Connecticut
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Best Buddies Connecticut Empower Rangers
BBCT staff with Buddy Ambassador, Mike Demusis


Dennis Fitzpatrick with one of his teachers from Buddy Ambassador training 
On Friday July 22nd, 39 high school participants, including one buddy director, 14 college participants, two Buddy Ambassadors, one advisor and one Buddy Ambassador speech coach arrived at Indiana University for The Big Picture: Leadership Conference 2011.

During Opening Ceremonies, Anthony Kennedy Shriver, the founder and chairman, spoke about where the Best Buddies movement was headed. He introduced the idea that our chapters and trainings needed to shift focus from students without disabilities to individuals with disabilities. Everyone in the room understood that it was time for the buddies to take a leadership role in the movement.

BBCT chose to channel this message through themes of empowerment. The BBCT participants became Empower Rangers whose five colors represented the five parts of empowerment: accept, respect, educate, advocate, inspire. The participants brought this theme with them to every session and every activity.

The high school and college student leaders attended sessions on fundraising, planning activities, working with their advisors, disability awareness and bullying. The students were able share their struggles and successes with hundreds of other students who shared their passion for Best Buddies and the disability rights movement.

Throughout these sessions, the BBCT students applied the theme of empowerment by committing to increasing the role of their buddy directors, planning disability awareness trainings for their chapters, and promoting respect in their communities.

In order to continuously involve more participants with intellectual disabilities and empower them to take on leadership roles in their chapters and communities, BBCT sent three buddies to the conference. Bobby, a buddy director from Cheshire High School, participated in the buddy director sessions.

He said he learned to focus on abilities and what he can do rather than his disability. Bobby plans to return to his chapter as a member of the officer corps with responsibilities tailored to his strengths and talents, just as members of the officer corps without disabilities choose their roles based on their strengths.

Mike Demusis and Dennis Fitzpatrick, two buddies from the Yale University chapter, attended the conference to become Best Buddies Ambassadors. Each of them spent the weekend writing a speech and learning public speaking techniques. During the last meeting on Monday morning, both Mike and Dennis had the opportunity to give their speeches to BBCT staff and participants.

Mike spoke about the positive aspects of living with a disability. He focused on the abilities individuals have because of their disability rather than in spite of their disability. He spoke about how these abilities enhance society because some of them are talents that people without disabilities do not have.

The theme of Dennis’s speech was the importance of helping others and the impact that someone with a disability can have on the life of someone without a disability. The Buddy Ambassadors inspired the BBCT participants to use their leadership roles to empower their own buddies.

Thank you to everyone who attended The Big Picture – we look forward to working with you to empower people with disabilities around Connecticut!

For more information about Leadership Conference: www.bestbuddiesleadershipconference.org

To watch opening and closing ceremonies:
www.bestbuddies.tv
Support our friendship programs in Connecticut: DONATE or VOLUNTEER at Best Buddies today.


by CAROLINE DICKINSON
Best Buddies Connecticut
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James Vaccaro and his Citizen Buddy, Casey Henderson, pose with James’s favorite celebrity.
James Vaccaro has been part of Best Buddies for a long time. He served as Buddy Director at his high school in Milford, CT. After he graduated, he remained an integral part of the chapter and was a helpful resource for Casey Henderson, who was just coming in as Program Manager.

He provided her with useful background information for his chapter, which he had done a great job of organizing.

Because James had graduated, he was no longer matched with a peer buddy. He and Casey had bonded so much since she came to the BBCT team that they requested to be matched as a Citizens Pair in November 2010.

Although Best Buddies Citizens typically does not make female to male matches, it was clear the pair had already forged a friendship that could only strengthen the program.

Since then, James and Casey have been speaking on the phone at least twice a week and e-mailing about once a day. James comes with Casey to almost every BBCT event and has been a huge help to staff and volunteers.

For example, at the BBCT Talent Showcase Extravaganza in March, James corralled performers and audience members to where they needed to go. He handed out pizza and helped set up. During the performance, he made sure that participants were ready to go on stage when they were called.

James had been there for many hours, and after it was all over, he helped BBCT staff clean and pack up. James took a big jump from helping with chapter events to playing an indispensable role at an important statewide event.

James frequently communicates with everyone on the BBCT staff. He e-mails staff members each day about what he is doing, and everyone in the office has a faxed Harry Potter coloring page on their bulletin boards.

He has a big heart and remembers everything a person might say about his or herself. When Casey was sick, he made sure to bring her cough drops. He has often invited other staff members to tag along on his outings with Casey.

But Casey remains his favorite. In May he called the Program Manager of Citizens to make sure that he would continue to be matched with Casey the following year.

He thought that Citizens was on the same schedule as the school-based programs, where students are re-matched each year. The Program Manager assured James that he could continue to have Casey as his friend for as long as he wanted.
Support our friendship programs in Connecticut: DONATE or VOLUNTEER at Best Buddies today.

 



by CASSANDRA HENDERSON
Best Buddies Connecticut
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Shelton Intermediate School Bowling – The chapter members went bowling together in November
Shelton Intermediate School CP Pic – The Chapter President, Andreas Schmalz, shows off a cupcake he decorated during a chapter activity
Shelton Intermediate School has received the award for Outstanding Middle School chapter for 2010-2011 from Best Buddies Connecticut.
BBCT is thrilled to give Shelton Intermediate this honor, as both advisors and students have worked tirelessly this year to make the club successful.

The Shelton Intermediate chapter hosts events at least three times each month. In-school chapter meetings typically consist of creative activities organized by the advisors and student leaders.

During the year the chapter has made gingerbread houses, decorated cupcakes, participated in a St. Patrick’s Day scavenger hunt, and written cards to each other.

The chapter has also held engaging activities outside of school, including bowling, apple picking, and miniature golf.

These activities have encouraged chapter members to work together and many wonderful friendships have blossomed as a result.

The Shelton IS chapter held their annual parent breakfast event in April this year. BBCT staff, students, parents, teachers, and administrators attended the event, which was held in the school’s library.

The Superintendent of the Shelton School District was also present to enjoy the festivities. The advisors and parents provided food for the chapter and the students enjoyed watching the Faculty Advisor, Mr. DeFelice, flip pancakes on a portable griddle.

Chapter members created centerpieces for the breakfast tables and designed placemats for their parents. Several of the student leaders worked closely with the SEA, Ms. Goldstein, to create a slideshow presentation to highlight the chapter’s wonderful activities and friendships throughout the year.

The chapter also showed a video created by the school’s media club for the local Fox Student News program. The video briefly showcases Best Buddies at SIS. The advisors recently learned that Fox Student News accepted their video and it will be shown on the air in the near future!

The chapter has also created genuine friendships both inside and outside of school which promote acceptance and inclusion. As Jenny and Alyssa, two Peer Buddies, wrote:

One thing we work hard at achieving in our program is making new friends. In the beginning of the year, each member is paired with a buddy. Then they become close friends throughout the year. Best Buddies is all about working together. Even in our conversations, we include everyone.

We also promote diversity and acceptance. We learn to accept people the way they are in Best Buddies, whether they are black, white, short, tall, gay, straight, or whether or not they have disabilities.

We learn to interact with each other and see the way each person goes through life everyday. We learn how to handle good days and bad days. Everyone here accepts each and every person the way that they are.

As Jenny and Alyssa stated so eloquently, the chapter focuses on developing genuine friendships throughout the year but also encourages students to promote the inclusion of their peers. It is through these efforts that people with and without disabilities are able to form mutually-enriching friendships that last for years.

In addition to the Outstanding Middle School award, the advisors were also recognized by BBCT for their dedication. Francene and Mike will receive Outstanding Advisor Awards at the BBCT Advisor Appreciation Breakfast in July.

Congratulations to the Shelton Intermediate School chapter! You have exemplified the mission of Best Buddies and have earned this award through your dedication to the program and to each other.
Support our friendship programs in Connecticut: DONATE or VOLUNTEER at Best Buddies today.


by CAROLINE DICKINSON
Best Buddies Connecticut
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From left to right: Moira Carlo (a former Citizen Buddy), Barb Canary, and Rose Scalzo. The Advisory Council poses before the Citizens holiday potluck begins. Rose hosted the potluck in her apartment building.
In August of 2008, Barb Canary and Rose Scalzo became a Citizens Buddy Pair. And they’ve been fast friends ever since. They have a lot in common. As Barb says, they are “both mothers who never stop worrying about [their] children”.

Each is eager to help the other. Several months ago, Rose and Barb went to a diner with Barb’s son. Rose used to be a waitress and seems to know the staff in every diner she and Barb step into.

The diner where Barb’s son met them is across from a train station where he commutes to work. Rose wanted to introduce him to the diner’s staff in case he ever had car troubles or the weather was bad.

Barb has been helping Rose a lot this year because of Rose’s two knee surgeries. Barb visited Rose in the recovery center at least every other day, and sometimes every day. She often came with coffee and dessert. This continued through Rose’s recovery at home.

The Pair also share a love of cooking. Rose has learned a lot through her experience working at diners. Her ex-husband is Greek, and she taught Barb how to make spinach pies.

After developing such a strong friendship with each other, Barb and Rose became the first Buddy Pair to sit on the BBCT Citizens Advisory Council. They hosted the first event in the community room of Barb’s apartment building.

Everyone brought a dish to share for a fun holiday meal, and Rose couldn’t have been more proud to host her fellow Best Buddies participants. The event was one of the most popular Citizens events of the year.

Barb and Rose are a great example of the kind of friendship that Best Buddies strives for with all its Pairs. They have come to mean a lot to each other, and they have so much in common. They are both grateful to have met through Best Buddies.
Support our friendship programs in Connecticut: DONATE or VOLUNTEER at Best Buddies today.


by CURTIS REID
Best Buddies Connecticut
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Megan Marcucci and Jenna Simmons, the Vice President and Chapter President of North Branford’s Best Buddies, pose at the Prom’s entrance with Robert Lundquist, the Chapter President for Coventry


Here, some participants from Rocky Hill enjoy a delicious dinner before starting the official dance.


Samantha Sojka, Miss Connecticut Teen 2011, makes a special appearance at the Best Buddies Prom and poses for a picture with two of our participants!


Here, several Best Buddies participants line up for the huge buffet-style dinner as volunteers help to serve the donated meals.
On May 14, 2011, more than 200 students from all over Connecticut came to support Best Buddies and Rocky Hill High School. The 2nd annual Best Buddies Prom, hosted at Rocky Hill, was absolutely incredible.

Food was donated from several vendors, and over twenty volunteers came out to support the festivities. Fully equipped with a DJ, dinner buffet, grand entrance, tables and a dance floor, the Best Buddies Prom was a perfect way to spend Saturday Night.

The best part, however, was everyone’s chance to meet and mingle with other Best Buddies participants from around the state.

For the last several months, the chapter members at Rocky Hill worked within their school and community to plan and execute this fantastic event.

Vance May, the DJ for the prom last year, was able to come back once again and provide a great variety of music for people to enjoy throughout the night.

The Chapter President, Taylor Clark, organized a raffle, a quilt making station, and even Miss Teen Connecticut, Samantha Sojka, made an appearance – with her sash and all.

The Rocky Hill Best Buddies Prom Committee did an excellent job with planning the event. Sandy Bonfiglio, the Special Education Advisor, worked with the students to organize a theme, food donations, decorations and more.
Their “Night Under the Stars” theme was a great addition to the event, and served as a perfect idea for decorations.

The student volunteers at Rocky Hill decorated the Cafeteria before everyone arrived, with balloons, streamers, black banners, and gold stars which hug from the ceiling.

They also incorporated a picture-taking station, where chapter participants from around the state could pose with their Buddies and chapter members.

More than ten other Best Buddies chapters organized buses and carpools for the event, and some schools brought over thirty people!

Chapters had been excited for the Best Buddies Prom since the fall, which perpetuated their excitement as the day drew closer.

With over 200+ participants in attendance, this number doubled that of attendees from 2010. Since there was such a great turnout, the advisors and student leaders at Rocky Hill needed to bring out more tables and chairs to accommodate everyone.

All in all, it was a fantastic night. Thanks to the hard work and effort of the Rocky Hill chapter members and advisors, the 2011 Best Buddies Prom was a great success. We can’t wait for it again next year!
Support our friendship programs in Connecticut: DONATE or VOLUNTEER at Best Buddies today.


by CASSANDRA HENDERSON
Best Buddies Connecticut
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Stars posing on the red carpet...
The spectacular entrance to the Ball, complete with custom-made Oscar statues
 
Staples Chapter President, Avery Vogt, and her Buddy, Dragen Lesko.


Members from the Brien McMahon HS chapter show off their fantastic outfits


Staples chapter members, Courtney Dionne and Andor Mate, share a dance


Participants join in the conga line!
 
The Staples High School chapter of Best Buddies Connecticut hosted the 12th annual Buddy Ball in Westport on April 2nd.

The student leaders, chapter members, and Faculty Advisor, Patty McQuone, worked for months to plan and execute this state-wide event which allows students from chapters in the South/West region of the state to come together and enjoy a night of music, food, dancing, and friendship.

Patty worked for months with her students to ensure that the night was a success. When asked about her experience in organizing and attending this event, she said, “This was my first year as a Best Buddies advisor and I have been so excited for this Ball.

A lot of planning went into this by all of the Buddies, Peer Buddies, parents, and Staples staff. We had students from several different schools, parents, and even Best Buddies Connecticut staff members. So many people and so much fun! We can not wait for next year.”

The theme of this year's Ball was "Hollywood" and students came dressed to impress, showcasing modern prom attire and old Hollywood glamour alike. The cafeteria was decorated with all sorts of fun references to film, including popcorn centerpieces and movie posters.

Like any great Hollywood event, however, the entrance was key! The Staples chapter arranged for a red carpet entrance complete with "paparazzi" cheering and taking pictures as students arrived, stars on the Walk of Fame with the names of each chapter in the region, and of course cut-outs of other celebrities like Marilyn Monroe and Elvis, who said several catchphrases as students walked by. To make this grand entrance perfect, the Staples chapter even had floor-to-ceiling cut-outs of Oscar statues made.

Not only did the Staples chapter put together a stunning venue for their Ball, they also booked fantastic entertainment. Amazed by the talent of the Kandoo Band, whom they had seen perform at the 2010 BBCT Friendship Walk, the Staples chapter asked them to play at their event.

Although the band is based in Connecticut, the members come from different parts of the country and getting together for rehearsals and performances is often inconvenient and expensive.

To offset the cost and burden of long-distance travel, the Staples chapter offered the band members the opportunity to do some recording in the school's own professional recording studio.

The band arrived a few days early and was able to spend time recording their own music at the school. The Kandoo Band performed for several hours and really amazed everyone with their musical abilities.

Chapter members from all over the state had a great time dancing to the live music and showing off their skills on the dance floor. To learn more about the Kandoo Band go to: www.kandooband.com.

The Staples chapter not only had to plan and execute the event, they had to raise the funds for it as well. The chapter held an activity at the Longshore Club Park skating rink on February 12th.

The skating rink generously donated a portion of their proceeds to the club that day and additionally the Staples chapter held raffles during the event for some fantastic prizes.

Overall, the club made almost $2000 in one afternoon and was able to fund the Buddy Ball because of the money they raised in February.

The Buddy Ball provides students from around the state who participate in Best Buddies with the opportunity to socialize with fellow participants from different schools. It is this camaraderie that truly makes the night so special.

As incoming Chapter President Sami Schwaeber said, “I think the Best Buddies Ball is a social event that is extremely special and different from any other event. Walking into the ball, there are no barriers. I found myself grabbing the hands of people I have never met before to share a dance or to talk about their lives.

"Nobody seems to care what dress you’re wearing or what your hair looks like. It doesn't matter what school you go to. Every one in that room will only be looking at your heart, and they will hold your hand no matter who you are.”

The Staples chapter has selflessly donated their time and dedication to Best Buddies. They worked tirelessly to ensure that students from other chapters from around the state were able to have an amazing night.

It is this spirit of generosity and hospitality that reflects the Best Buddies mission and allowed friends to come together in celebration. It was truly a night to remember. Congratulations to the Staples chapter on a job well done!
Support our friendship programs in Connecticut: DONATE or VOLUNTEER at Best Buddies today.


by CASSANDRA HENDERSON
Best Buddies Connecticut
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On March 31st, Best Buddies Connecticut held it’s first ever Talent Showcase Extravaganza to celebrate Best Buddies month 2011. The event was held at Wilbur Cross High School in New Haven and all of the Middle School, High School, and College chapters in the state were invited to attend. The show featured 12 performances from our participants.

Chapter Members had a great time showing off their talents in singing, dancing, and other unique abilities. Celebrity host, Matt Scott, and co-host, Mike Demussis, helped to make the event memorable. Although all of our performers did a spectacular job, unfortunately, our judges could only choose one winner.

Third place was awarded to Teisha Denny from North Branford High School. Teisha performed the song “Pray” by Justin Bieber and dazzled the audience with her beautiful voice. Second place was awarded to Deb Johnson from the Quinnipiac University chapter.

Deb sang an acappella version of “Amazing Grace” and moved everyone with her lovely voice and her heartfelt performance. The grand prize was awarded to Rashad Murrell from the Sacred Heart University chapter.

Rashad blew the audience away with his performance of an original rap. Not only did Rashad write the lyrics for his song, he also mixed his own beats and recorded the backing vocal track. While Rashad’s musical talent was obvious, it was his lyrics and his message that truly left a lasting impression with the judges and the audience.

By encouraging everyone to “keep your head high”, Rashad really captured the spirit of Best Buddies and of all of our participants. Thank you to all of our participants, volunteers, parents, friends, and supporters. You made this a truly special event!
Support our friendship programs in Connecticut: DONATE or VOLUNTEER at Best Buddies today.


by CARLY DICKINSON
Best Buddies Connecticut
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Photo Booth, Take One: Under the Sea
Photo Booth, Take Two: Roller Coaster!
Photo Booth, Take Three: Seeing Double.
Eleanor Powell and Becky Grenfell have been a Citizens Buddy Pair since November 2010. Eleanor joined the BBCT team in September as Colleges Program Manager. After she settled into her new job, she requested a Buddy.

The consensus in the office was that Eleanor should be matched with Becky Grenfell, a Buddy who’s been involved with BBCT for many years. Their personalities and sense of humor seemed to be compatible.

Eleanor and Becky first met at a Starbuck’s in downtown New Haven. They immediately hit it off. The match became official when the Citizens Program Manager called Becky the next day and asked if she’d like to be Eleanor’s Buddy.

Eleanor was sitting across the room during that phone call and could hear Becky’s excited voice from where she sat.

Since then, the Pair has had a lot of fun and been very creative in their ideas for get-togethers. Becky accompanies Eleanor on visits to Colleges chapter events around the state.

When Becky was sick, Eleanor brought her soup. The Pair had a “pasta party” at Eleanor’s apartment, strolled through IKEA, and took silly photos of themselves on Eleanor’s MacBook.

Eleanor always has a good story to tell the rest of the BBCT staff when she and Becky have met up, and Becky is equally as happy.

In a recent phone conversation with the Citizens Program Manager, Becky said that being with Eleanor “is the best thing that ever happened to me.”
Support our friendship programs in Connecticut: DONATE or VOLUNTEER at Best Buddies today.


by CURTIS REID
Best Buddies Connecticut
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Megan Marcucci (left) and Jenna Simmons take a break from their hard work to pose for a picture.
Jenna Simmons, the Chapter President (right), and Megan Marcucci, the Vice President (left), hand out stickers and information on Best Buddies Connecticut’s 3rd annual Friendship Walk.
On March 28th, the Best Buddies chapter at North Branford hosted a successful fundraiser at Friendly’s, on Washington Avenue in North Haven. Over 25 students, family members and friends came out to support the event.

Jenna Simmons, the Chapter President, and Megan Marcucci, the Vice President, spread awareness of Best Buddies by distributing stickers and information on the Friendship Walk. They passed out Best Buddies stickers to everyone in the restaurant and answered people’s questions about the international organization.

Curtis Reid and Eleanor Powell, Program Managers from Best Buddies, also attended the event with Lizzy Ankudowich, a new member of the Citizens Program. Since so many people came to support this fundraiser, many families and friends of the North Branford chapter had to wait to be seated.

Jenna organized the fundraiser with the help of the Special Education Advisor, Kathy Mezerewski. Kathy and the students have worked hard this year as a group, and their success as a Best Buddies chapter has been clear.

The students incorporated this fundraiser to help send Jenna to the Best Buddies International Leadership Conference in July, which is held at Indiana University.

Student leaders from across the country, and even the world, attend this Leadership Conference to learn about the mission of Best Buddies, in addition to leading their chapters. Jenna attended the Conference in 2010, and came back with great knowledge of Best Buddies programs. This has been very helpful for the chapter’s overall organization and Jenna’s leadership as the Chapter President.

The students at North Branford always plan great activities and their “Friendly's Night” Fundraiser was no exception. The chapter has shown their support for Best Buddies with participation in the annual Friendship Walk, in addition to regularly attending Best Buddies Connecticut's state events.

Jenna Simmons played a pivotal role with fundraising for the last Friendship Walk, and even earned her chapter a free ice cream party for being the highest fundraising high school chapter in the northeast region of Connecticut. Megan Marcucci was also a great supporter of the Friendship Walk, and created the infamous “Kids for Kids” team, which was the highest fundraising community team in 2010. With the genuine support from their student leaders and Special Education Advisor, the chapter at North Branford is making great progress.

Thanks to all the participants and community members who made this Friendly’s fundraiser successful. It was a great way to spread awareness of Best Buddies, as well as generate revenue for the chapter.  The fundraiser at Friendly's definitely paid off, thanks to the dedication and support from Jenna, Megan, Kathy and all those that attended.  Thank you for your hard work and support of Best Buddies!
Support our friendship programs in Connecticut: DONATE or VOLUNTEER at Best Buddies today.


by ELEANOR POWELL
Best Buddies Connecticut
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Spread the Word to End the Word
The Spread the Word to End the Word campaign is a joint effort by Best Buddies, Special Olympics and over 200 other organizations around the world to promote respect and inclusion for people with intellectual disabilities.

In early March, Best Buddies chapters in high schools, middle schools and colleges across Connecticut will take part in this global movement to end the derogatory use of the word “retard(ed)” through education and community awareness.

On March 2nd, chapters from around the state will pledge to stop using the r-word and encourage others in their schools to sign the pledge as well. Some will hold multi-day campaigns, and others will hold forums or assemblies.

At Quinnipiac University, the Best Buddies chapter has decided to expand their STW/ETW campaign to include an “Embrace Your Abilities Night” on March 1st. This event is a kick-off to the annual STW/ETW day and will serve as an opportunity for members of the chapter with intellectual and developmental disabilities to showcase their talents, dreams and abilities.

Albert Lognin, Best Buddies Ambassador, BBCT Advisory Board member, and Buddy Director for Trinity College, will speak about his experiences and how, through Best Buddies, he has become a self-advocate as well as an advocate for individuals with disabilities.

The University of Hartford chapter of Best Buddies is continuing their dedication to STW/ETW by holding a Spread the Word to End the Word Benefit Concert on March 25th. Last year, the chapter was awarded a $15,000 grant from the Newman’s Own Foundation to help publicize the movement through social media such as Facebook.

Since September 2010, the UHart chapter has been holding monthly pledge days and selling STW/ETW t-shirts to raise awareness about the concert. The chapter will ask students to wear their t-shirts on March 25th as a testament to the UHart community’s dedication to eliminating the r-word from day-to-day speech. The concert will feature multiple speakers as well as musical groups made up of UHart students.

Quinnipiac University and University of Hartford Best Buddies are only two of the many dedicated groups throughout Connecticut who are spreading the word about the harmful effects of the r-word.

For more information or to register your STW/ETW event, visit www.r-word.org and pledge to change the conversation to words of respect. You can also visit the Best Buddies Connecticut Facebook Fan Page to make your pledge. 
Support our friendship programs in Connecticut: DONATE or VOLUNTEER at Best Buddies today.


by NIKKI BESITKO
Best Buddies Connecticut
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Chapter members pose for a picture.
A Chapter Member proudly shows off a cookie he decorated!
On February 14th, 2011, the Wilbur Cross Best Buddies chapter hosted a Valentine’s Day event in the gymnasium. Chapter leaders and members spent time during the school day setting up decorations, preparing food, and arranging craft activities for the event.

Members of the Officer Corps, the Activities Committee, and parents provided lunch and a homemade Valentine’s Day cake for the party.
There were also plenty of activities to entertain everyone, including cookie decorating, Valentine’s Day card-making, music, and volleyball games. The Buddies created a dance circle and went into the center of the group one at a time displaying their impressive dance skills and cheering for each other.

The entire chapter was excited by the energy and enthusiasm displayed by the Buddies and soon everyone was out of their chairs dancing to the music.

The student leaders had secured permission from the Administration and Faculty to host the event during the last few periods of the school day. With teacher permission, students were able to stop by during class time or to stay for the duration of the party if they had free periods.

This led to a high level of participation from Chapter Members and even encouraged non-members to stop by the gym to check out the fun. By the end of the day, over 80 students and teachers had joined the party!

Faculty from the Special Education and General Education Departments were present and enjoyed interacting with the members and watching the friendships develop between participants.

While the party was full of energy and entertainment, it was also an opportunity for the Buddies and Peer Buddies to express their gratitude to each other for the connections they have formed and the friendships they have created this year.

Buddy, Dedrick John, created a Valentine’s Day card for his Peer Buddy, Nathalie Hall, who is also the Treasurer for the club. Dedrick thanked Nathalie for her friendship and drew a beautiful heart for her.

The Wilbur Cross chapter has been transformed this year due to the hard word of Chapter President, Isaiah Lee, and his dedicated Officer Corps and committee leaders. Faculty Advisor, Ann Nuzzo, said, “This is truly a great event. Isaiah and his team did all the work to put this together and should be very proud.”
Support our friendship programs in Connecticut: DONATE or VOLUNTEER at Best Buddies today.


by CARLY DICKINSON
Best Buddies Connecticut
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The Citizens Advisory Council: Moira, Barb, and Rose.
Good friends and good food!
Buddy Pair Lizzy and Lisa exchange holiday gifts.
Connecticut’s first Citizens Advisory Council began planning their first event last October. The Advisory Council is a newly formed group that assists the Program Manager in planning Citizens events.

The Council consists of Buddy Pairs who have shown a commitment to the Program and who are interested in planning events that will be attractive and fun for their fellow Citizens participants.

Everyone at the first meeting thought a holiday potluck would be a great first project. Buddy Rose Scalzo suggested we use the community room in the building where she lives. After that, the ideas kept coming. Barb suggested a $5 gift grab-bag.

Moira began brainstorming the Christmas music she would bring. Together, the Advisory Council made a list of essential and fun items that would be needed to make the potluck a success.

The day of the potluck came, and a success it was! Rose was quite nervous at first but was soon put at ease as people came in and the atmosphere become jovial. Moira brought a selection of Christmas music, and everyone particularly like her Elvis selection.

Everyone brought a delicious dish to pass. Rose happens to be a very good cook and made two of her specialty Greek salads. After everyone had eaten, the gift exchange began, and the smiles continued.

Among the attendees, there were seasoned Buddy Pairs as well as brand new Buddy Pairs. In addition to Barb and Rose, we saw Sarah Carroll and Elizabeth Pope as well as Noel McCarry and Paul Bennitt.

Brand new Buddy Pairs Lizzy Ankudowich and Lisa Mandanici carpooled the hour-and-a-half trek from New Haven to Danbury with Lisa’s mother, Margaret, and her new Buddy, Linda Przybrowski. The event was Lizzy and Lisa’s first outing together.

All in all, the event brought together new and old Citizens Buddy Pairs and participants for a relaxing and fun meal in the midst of the holiday season. Rose was all smiles and very proud.
Support our friendship programs in Connecticut: DONATE or VOLUNTEER at Best Buddies today.


by NIKKI BESITKO
Best Buddies Connecticut
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The students from EO Smith’s Best Buddies chapter pose for a picture with their giant stocking! The stocking was raffled off as a fundraiser within EO Smith, and the group made $120.
The students at EO Smith High School know how to plan a great holiday bash, and on December 21 the chapter held a party to kick-off the holiday season. During the celebration, participants decorated holiday cards for their friends and families while snacking on cookies, chips and other treats.

The chapter’s advisors provided food and the students got each other excited for winter break. In addition to their festive spirits, everyone at EO Smith was happy to spend time together before heading home for the holidays.

Conversations about Harry Potter, holiday plans and winter vacations were stirring around the room, and the students began preparing themselves for a lot of snow. Giant stockings, making cards and taking pictures were all part of the party, and the students went home excited to start the New Year.

The Chapter President, Nicole Hackner, planned a Giant-Stocking Fundraiser within her school and the proceeds benefited their Best Buddies group. The stocking was at least 3 feet tall and stuffed with candles, gift cards, a Best Buddies t-shirt, and other items that the students donated for the fundraiser.

The group distributed raffle tickets in their school for $1 each, and within a week, the chapter had sold one hundred and twenty tickets in total. While everyone was enjoying the party, each chapter member got their picture taken with the stocking. After the party, the stocking was raffled off at EO Smith, and the chapter made $120 from their efforts.

At the end of the party, the students posed for a group picture with the giant stocking before handing it over to the lucky winner. The students were happy for the chance to spend time together before break, but they were finally ready for the holiday season to begin. After saying goodbye to each other, the students left with their decorated holiday cards and full stomachs. Then, it was time for the snow!

The participants at EO Smith always enjoy themselves. They are a great representation of Best Buddies, and the students are supportive and involved with the program. Everyone in the group has become more comfortable with each other, and they are always excited to spend time together. Visiting EO Smith is always a blast, and their winter party was no exception!
Support our friendship programs in Connecticut: DONATE or VOLUNTEER at Best Buddies today.


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Ron helps Bruce get a good workout.


Ron and Bruce prepare a meal.
by CARLY DICKINSON
Best Buddies Connecticut


In 1995 Ron Pilkowicz volunteered for Special Olympics at the California World Games. He enjoyed the experience of working with people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, so his cousin recommended he call Best Buddies.

Bruce Epstein was living with his parents at the time and had been on the waiting list for a Citizen Buddy for a while. He and Ron were matched and thus began their Tuesday night tradition.

In the beginning, Bruce was noticeably insecure with the new friendship. “He would always find personal items to leave in my car so that I would have to come see him again,” recalls Ron, “He stopped doing that a while back. He doesn’t have to worry anymore.”

Since meeting 15 years ago, the Pair’s friendship has remained strong through life’s ups and downs. Ron was close with Bruce’s parents until they passed away.

After their passing, he helped Bruce transition into the group home where he currently lives. Ron keeps in touch with Bruce’s sisters – one lives in Orange, CT, and the other in Atlanta – and Bruce frequently comes to Ron’s home. Bruce says of Ron, “He made my life better. He’s one of my best friends. I like seeing him every Tuesday.”

Ron says Best Buddies is a very rewarding Program to all involved, and it only takes a little bit of time. “Many people with intellectual disabilities don’t have common networking tools like the rest of us. It’s harder for them to reach out and find a friend.” Ron says it’s great to see how Bruce’s day brightens when the Pair gets together and calls Bruce “the brother I never had”.


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Students from decorate their turkey feathers with messages of what they are thankful for.


Dodd’s Thanksgiving turkey!


Chapter members line up for their Thanksgiving feast!
by W. CURTIS REED
Best Buddies Connecticut


Many people would say that they are thankful for family and friends, but Dodd Middle School students are thankful for everything!

During their Thanksgiving Party, the students feasted on snacks, shared their stories with one another and decorated turkey feathers.

These feathers were made from colored paper, and each student in the Best Buddies group decorated them with messages of what they are thankful for.

Before adding their colorful feathers to the community turkey, the students presented to the group what they had written.

Pets, siblings, Xbox, and even the TV were listed among the things that Dodd’s students are thankful for, and the festive spirit did not stop there!

Within minutes, the turkey had transformed into a colorful work of art, symbolizing not only the amount of participants at Dodd, but also their shared holiday spirit!

The Buddy Pairs also discussed what they’ve been doing with their new friends, and it was amazing to see just how much they have already done.

Baking pies, going to parades, watching movies, and bowling were only some of the activities that these new friends had done together, and it’s a perfect representation of Best Buddies’ mission. After decorating the turkey and sharing stories about their new friends, it was time to feast!

A Pre-Holiday school feast is something everyone looks forward to, but Dodd Middle School students are used to being treated like royalty.

The Special Education Advisor, Carolyn Davis, and other faculty generously provide the group with a huge variety of delicious snacks at their parties, and their Thanksgiving was no exception.

It is a common sight to see the students from Dodd lining up behind a huge buffet-style of snacks, piling up whatever catches their eyes onto already-full plates.

Going to Dodd Middle School is always exciting! The students are positive, spirited and genuinely appreciate Best Buddies Programs. The faculty is absolutely amazing, and their support for Best Buddies is clear.

They come dressed in Best Buddies apparel, and continually support their students with anything and everything. It is a pleasure to work with Dodd Middle School’s faculty, and of course their students, on creating these beneficial and authentic friendships.


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Cheshire High School shows their support!


East Lyme High School getting ready to walk


Eastern CT State University Chapter has spirit!


The Kandoo Band Performs at Finish Celebration
Thank you to everyone that supported Friendship Walk 2010, making it a HUGE success!

On October 16 more then 400 walkers turned out for a beautiful day to help increase awareness and raise funds in support of programs that promote friendship and inclusion in middle schools, high schools and colleges across the state. Together we raised over $22,000 for Best Buddies Connecticut programs.

The Best Buddies CT Friendship Walk included a 1, 3 and 5 mile walk starting at North Haven Middle School.

All routes concluded at the Finish Celebration with lunch, team and fundraising awards and entertainment by the Kandoo Band!

Top Individual Fundraiser:
Courtney Dionnem, Staples High School

Top Team Fundraiser (Chapter):
Staples High School

Top Team Fundraiser (Community):
Kids for Kids


Special thanks to our many generous sponsors:

Bruegger’s Bagels of Orange
Cabot Creamery Cooperative
Café Romeo, New Haven
Ceddro Banana Wholesalers, New Haven
Cohen’s Bagel Company, Branford
Crystal Rock Water Company
Double J Sound, North Haven
Ken & Jerry’s, North Haven
Luigi's Apizza, North Haven
North Haven Middle School
Primo Pasta, Hamden
SM Copper Photography
Subway or North Haven, Hamden and New Haven

For more information on the 2011 Friendship Walk please contact:

Nikki Besitko | State Director
E-Mail: NikkiBesitko@bestbuddies.org
Phone: 203-234-3996

John Monico l Event Chair
E-Mail: johnm@pawson.com
Phone: 203-495-1472

Check out this video Staples High School made after Friendship Walk!





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The staging area for the EKS Challenge


Jameil, Carlos and Christine at the Washington Monument at sunrise before the 5k run


Christine, Carlos and Jameil with their medals after completing the run
Only a week after raising $800 for the Best Buddies Connecticut Friendship Walk, members of Eastern Connecticut State University Best Buddies drove to Washington, D.C. in support of Best Buddies at the national level for the 1st annual Eunice Kennedy Shriver Challenge.

Special Olympics and Best Buddies partnered for the event on the National Mall which was held in memory of Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the creator of Special Olympics and a lifetime advocate for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

College Buddy Director, Carlos Corona, Membership Coordinator, Christine Cyr and Treasurer, Jameil Johnson arrived in D.C. to find that they were one of only a few college chapters participating in the first year of the EKS Challenge.

There are Best Buddies chapters at more than 425 college campuses around the world that pair undergraduate students in one-to-one friendships with people with intellectual and developmental disabilities based on common interests and personality.

The ECSU students were the only program participants from Connecticut to attend and came further than any other college representatives.

Each of the three students raised $100 to register for the Youth 5K Run and received medals and long sleeve shirts for their participation.

Carlos, Christine and Jameil enjoyed meeting celebrities like Chris Brown, David Archuleta and Miss Teen USA, though the group was most excited to represent Connecticut at this national event.


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Buddy Ambassador Albert Lognin and Speech Coach and Quinnipiac College Buddy Director Lindsay.


Buddy Ambassador and Southington High School Buddy Director Andrew White and Speech Coach Dave.


Buddy Pair Ben and Vaian, Self Advocate for people with disabilities.
by RACHEL LANE
Best Buddies California


On September 11, Best Buddies CT student leaders from high schools and colleges around the state gathered at Wesleyan University for Connecticut Local Leadership Training Day. Best Buddies staff led sessions similar to those at the Best Buddies Leadership Conference held in July.

During a group session, these incoming student leaders learned about self advocacy for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.  Varian Salters, a self advocate for the CT Department of Developmental Services (DDS) shared the importance of self advocacy.

So what is self advocacy and why is it important? The DDS website defines self advocacy as “…speaking or acting for yourself. It means deciding what is best for you and taking charge of getting what you want. It means standing up for your rights as a person...”

Varian’s self advocacy and ability awareness started several years ago when he realized he could be living on his own and doing a job that required more skills.

Since then he’s come a long way in self advocacy and made a huge difference for CT’s people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. He played a big role in changing the name of the Department of Mental Retardation (DMR) to the Department of Developmental Services (DDS).

Varian’s passion is helping people with disabilities learn about their rights and begin to speak up for themselves. In addition to working for DDS, he also serves as Vice President of People First of Connecticut, another self advocacy group. In the future, Varian plans to start a school-based self advocacy group for kids with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

In addition to learning about self advocacy, students heard from two of CT’s first Buddy Ambassadors, Albert Lognin and Andrew White.

Albert and Andrew gave the speeches they’ve been working on since their Best Buddies Ambassadors training in August. Albert spoke about his experiences with Best Buddies since its founding in 1989, and Andrew talked about the fun activities he does with Best Buddies High Schools.

These speeches from Varian and the new Buddy Ambassadors were an excellent demonstration of ability awareness, and it inspired the students present at the training to chime in about the abilities of their own Buddies.


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A handful of the 50+ participants from Cheshire High School’s Best Buddies chapter pose for a picture after finding out their buddy pairs for the year!


The chapter members play a fun icebreaker game after finding out their buddy pairs for the year!


Sofia Martone, the Chapter President, distributes flyers and information on the 2010 Friendship Walk!
by WARREN CURTIS REID
Best Buddies Connecticut


Recruitment Fairs, Organizational Meetings and Match Parties mark the beginning of another amazing school year with Best Buddies, and Cheshire High School proves to be ahead of the pack!

Their Match Party was held on Monday, September 27 in the student commons, and was extremely successful. Over seventy students, parents and siblings came out for the Match Party to eat ice cream and celebrate their shared support for the Best Buddies programs.

Peg Anthony, a proud parent and huge advocate for Best Buddies, provided the crowd with helpful information regarding Best Buddies’ mission, upcoming events and the Cheshire High School chapter.

The faculty advisors, Karen Sova and Megan Weingart, shared a video with pictures from the previous year and presented shirts in which they plan to tie-dye as a chapter activity. The Chapter President, Sofia Martone, executed the Match Party with ease, while serving ice cream and providing the families with information on the upcoming 2010 Friendship Walk!

Half way through the party, the Cheshire High School students were presented with their buddy pairs, and broke away from the group to play games with their new friends.

Overall, the Cheshire High School Match Party was very engaging and fun! Everyone in attendance was informed of Best Buddies programs, the Friendship Walk, and the unique qualities that make Cheshire High School’s chapter outstanding.

The huge amount of support was represented by the “Best Buddies” apparel worn by the chapter leaders, as well as the sheer number of participants accompanied by their families. This, and much, much more proves that Cheshire High School is taking their Best Buddies chapter to a whole new level.

All of our chapters have made leaps and bounds towards the goal of inclusion, acceptance and equality between people with and without disabilities. Way to go Cheshire High School and all of our Best Buddies chapters. We look forward to another amazing year!

To learn more about the 2010 Friendship Walk, or to sign up a team, go to www.bestbuddiesct.org/walk. There you can find team registration, team statistics, and other general information on the Friendship Walk. Thanks so much. We appreciate the support!


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BUILD Buddy Ambassadors and Speech Coaches
by NIKKI BESITKO
Best Buddies Connecticut


Buddies United in Leadership Development (BUILD) educates and empowers people with IDD to be leaders and public speakers in their schools, communities, and workplaces.

BUILD is the next step for the Disability Rights Movement – teaching people with IDD the skills they need to successfully self-advocate.

BUILD prepares people with intellectual and developmental disablities to become active agents of change.

On Saturday, August 21, Best Buddies Connecticut held its first BUILD Training at the Clarion Hotel in Hamden.  Five buddies from our Middle School, High School and College Programs graduated from the program, becoming Buddy Ambassadors for Best Buddies Connecticut.

Thank you to our buddies and speech coaches for taking part in this extrodinary experience.  We can't wait to see our new Buddy Ambassadors spreading the word about Best Buddies!


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Student Leaders from Best Buddies CT Chapters at the 2010 Best Buddies Leadership Conference
by NIKKI BESITKO
Best Buddies Connecticut


Thirty-four Best Buddies Connecticut student leaders from CT high school and college programs attended the 21st Annual Best Buddies International Leadership Conference at Indiana University in Bloomington, IN from July 23 – 26, 2010.

The Best Buddies International Leadership Conference brings together leaders with and without intellectual and developmental disabilities from high schools and colleges worldwide, providing them personalized training that develops the leadership skills needed to organize a Best Buddies chapter.

Through numerous breakout sessions, attendees enhance their knowledge of the Best Buddies movement by learning about and discussing topics including: the global disability rights movement, tolerance, inclusion, advocacy, professionalism, public speaking, time management, fundraising, and volunteer management. Attendees experience team-building at its absolute best!

They were challenged to explore their full potential, tap into their power to motivate others, and translate awareness into quality friendships between students with and without intellectual and developmental disabilities. Over the past 20 years, Leadership Conference has inspired thousands of leaders to be Best Buddies ambassadors and to bring about social change in their communities.

During opening ceremonies four Best Buddies Connecticut chapters received awards for “Outstanding Chapter”.  Congratulations to East Lyme High School, University of Hartford, Sacred Heart University and Quinnipiac University. Way to go BBCT!!!

Best Buddies Connecticut students returned home educated and motivated to lead their chapter’s in successfully spreading the mission of one-to-one friendships throughout their communities. Thank you to all the student leaders that attended – we can’t wait to start a great new year!


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by CAROLINE DICKINSON
Best Buddies Connecticut


Citizen Buddy Ryan Kononchik decided in June to host a luau-themed cookout on the beach in West Haven. The event took place on Sunday, July 25th, and fun was had by all who attended.

Everyone played their fair share in the cookout, each bringing an essential BBQ item, such as hamburgers, hot dogs, potato salad, brownies, condiments, and so on. Everyone had a fun and relaxing afternoon.

Some played bean bags and wiffle ball, others took a dip in the ocean, and still others sat and chatted at the picnic table in the shade of a tree decorated with brightly-colored luau flowers.

The weather report had promised scattered thunder storms to rain on the fun, but the ominous clouds didn’t start rolling in until everyone was packing up to leave four hours later.

As a parting gift, Ryan presented everyone with a small tiki head for good luck. All in all, good friends and good food made for a well-spent Sunday afternoon. 


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Leadership Conference 2010 “Building our Future”


BBCT 2009 Participants Enjoying LC! 
by HEATHER MILLETT
Best Buddies Connecticut


On July 23rd thirty-eight incoming Chapter Presidents and participants from Connecticut will head to Indiana University for the 21st Annual Best Buddies International Leadership Conference.

The conference brings students with and without disabilities from colleges and high schools world-wide for a first hand experience of Best Buddies leadership training.

Through workshops, breakout sessions, and various motivational speakers attendees learn how to organize a successful Best Buddies chapter, spread awareness, and bring social change to their communities.

Topics include: the global disability rights movement, tolerance, inclusion, advocacy, professionalism, public speaking, time management, fundraising, and volunteer management.

Leadership Conference will provide CT attendees with all they tools they need for an outstanding 2010-2011 academic year.

BBCT participants from Branford, Cheshire, Coventry, Mansfield, North Branford, North Haven, Rocky Hill, Southington, Suffield, Windsor, Norwalk, Milford, East Lyme, Old Saybrook, New Milford, Seymour, Shelton, Westport, Stamford, Wilton, ECSU, SCSU, Fairfield University, Sacred Heart University, Yale University, Wesleyan University, University of Hartford, Trinity University, and Quinnipiac University are all eagerly awaiting an experience of a lifetime!

Join BBCT in wishing each of our student leaders good luck at conference this July!

You can be a part of the fun!! Visit www.bestbuddies.org/lc2010, July 23rd through July 26th, to watch a livestream of the fun at Leadership Conference 2010!

See you in Indiana!


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Miss Teen CT and Brien McMahon Buddy Director Steven Bravo


Norwalk Alumni Anthony and Staples chapter member Madeline


Best Buddies from Norwalk Celebrate Friendship


Buddy Ball Conga Line


The Three Amigos of Wilton High SchoolGolfer in action at the national Audi quattro cup tournament
by BUANCA SMITH HUCKABEY
Best Buddies Connecticut


Marking the eleventh year of the Best Buddies Staples High School Buddy Ball, chapters from across Connecticut joined together on May 22nd in Westport for dancing, fun and laughter. 

Buddy Pairs and Associate Members from seven schools and several local community organizations participated in the luau themed dance this year.

The attendees greeted old friends and made new ones.  There were smiles all around as Buddies sang their favorite songs with their Peer Buddies and the conga line traveled around the balloon filled cafeteria.

Participants were surprised by special guest, Alyssa Taglia, Miss Teen Connecticut. Alyssa graciously joined the members for a spin around the dance floor, signed autographs and took pictures. 

As one of the oldest chapters of the state of Connecticut, the Staples Best Buddies chapter has been creating friendships since 1996.

The chapter continues to grow and spread the mission of Best Buddies to family, friends and community members.

And as the school year winds down, participants are already asking the question…when I next years Buddy Ball?   

 



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Connecticut College: Buddy pairs celebrate spring, friendship and artistic ablities
by SEYMOUR DE OLIVEIRA
Best Buddies Utah


On April 11th, the Connecticut College chapter of Best Buddies met for a group activity filled with dance, art and games. The chapter celebrated spring by showing off their artistic abilities.

The first part of the day was spent in one of the university’s dance studios; where College Buddies and Buddies held an interpretive dance-off! The dance battle ensued with balloons, balls, and other props to increase the fun. Laughter and smiles could be found everywhere.

With such a beautiful day, the fun eventually moved to a neighboring field. The chapter broke into smaller groups to start various activities including football and arts and crafts like making necklaces and bracelets out of decorative beads, and painting pots for planting sunflower seeds!

All in all it was a quaint, fun day of activities. The Buddies and the College Buddies had fun, and so did this program manager.


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Coventry Best Buddies Participants lending a helping hand in honor of Global Youth Service Day


Play a part in GYSD and donate a New or Gently Used Book Today! 
by HEATHER MILETT
Best Buddies Florida


The mission of Global Youth Service Day, which took place from April 23-25, is to assemble and encourage millions of children and youth to improve their communities through service projects both small and large. Best Buddies International is proud to promote and participate in Global Youth Service Day which is considered the largest service event in the world.

Participants from Best Buddies Connecticut feel strongly about this service event, and did not want to pass up the opportunity to help out their local communities. By partaking in this event, Connecticut is showing the community that individuals with disabilities are valuable and contributing members of society.

Best Buddies chapters throughout the state organized a variety of service projects in order to take part in this initiative. The Coventry and Shelton High School chapters organized clean up days at their respective schools.

Ridgefield High School Best Buddies volunteered with a local community organization, and Foran High School joined other Milford residents in their effort to clean up a nearby park.  Wilton High School BB participants made homemade quilts and donated them to a shelter.

Best Buddies Connecticut has also organized a state-wide initiative to collect new and gently used books for New Haven Reads, a community book bank that promotes the power of reading and provides children and adults access to free books.   BBCT Middle and High School chapters are organizing drives at their schools to collect books appropriate for children, teens, and young adults.

If you are interested in donating a book contact Heather or Bianca at the BBCT office, 203-234-3996 or drop of your books between the hours of 8AM and 6PM at 28 Washington Avenue, 2nd Floor, North Haven, CT  06473.


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Buddy Pair Jenna and Victoria enjoy lunch together at Taco Bell


James, Buddy Director at Jonathan Law High School, and his buddy Chloe create new memories during their March outing to Taco Bell
by BIANCA SMITH-HUCKABEY
Best Buddies Connecticut


During the month of March, Jonathan Law enjoyed a celebration of friendships and fun! “Taking it to the Streets” and incorporating the Buddy participants life skills courses, the chapter ventured out on a walking trip to the local Taco Bell and Pizza Hut restaurant.

Nearly 25 participants, Advisors and parents enjoyed tacos, salsa and breadsticks. Following a monetary budget the Peer Buddies assisted the Buddies with ordering meals that would not only “taste great” but were cost effective. Smiles and laughter filled the room as the Buddy Pairs gathered around the table to enjoy their meals.

Buddy Pairs like Jenna and Victoria, James and Chloe, demonstrated what true friendship really means to those community members present.

Buddy Director, James Vacarro joined his Peer Buddy, Chloe Hudd, her mother and other Associate Members for his meal. While they ate, he highlighted his experience during the summer Local Leadership Conference and his role as student leader this school year.

The field trip helped to foster the friendships of Jonathan Law while also demonstrating the lessons learned in a typical school day. The Buddy Pairs have added this trip to their list of favorite Best Buddies activities.


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by BIANCA SMITH-HUCKABEY
Best Buddies Connecticut


As individuals from across the nation joined together to “Spread the Word to End the Word”, Best Buddies Connecticut chapters and supporters jumped into gear to do their part.   Spread the Word to End the Word™ is an ongoing effort by Special Olympics, Best Buddies International and our supporters to raise the consciousness of society about the dehumanizing and hurtful effects of the word “retard(ed)” and encourage people to pledge to stop using the R-word.  The campaign, created by youth, is intended to engage schools organizations and communities to rally and pledge their support at http://www.r-word.org/ with a goal of reaching 100,000 pledges.

Daily you may hear the use of the R word used incorrectly to describe a person or object. Take a minute to think of family members, friends and associates that may have been affected by the use any hurtful language. How did it make you feel?

Taking the pledge is simple, visit the website www.r-word.org, today to eliminate the derogatory use of the R word!

In helping Best Buddies and Special Olympics reach their goal of 100,000 pledges during the month of March, Connecticut chapters worked before and after classes, during lunch, and in the community to collect pledges to eliminate the use of the R-word. Collecting nearly 700 pledges the Shelton High School chapter hit the halls to abolish the “R” word.   The North Haven Middle School chapter collected 450 signatures during lunch waves to ensure the “word” had been spread.   Embracing the global mission of Best Buddies and their personal attitude toward change, the chapters encouraged support around Connecticut.

Best Buddies Connecticut was recently awarded a grant of $15,000 from Newman’s Own Foundation in support of their Best Buddies chapter at the University of Hartford (UHart). The grant, which will fund BBCT’s statewide Spread the Word to End the Word initiative this spring, was awarded to the University of Hartford for their outstanding commitment to the Best Buddies mission and their continued advocacy for people with intellectual disabilities. The initiative will work to end the use of the word “retard” in common language throughout the state through targeted media campaigns.

Check out the list of schools and pictures of supporters who continue to bring change to their community.

East Lyme High School
Joseph A. Foran High School
New Canaan High School
Newtown High School
North Branford High School
North Haven Middle School
Old Saybrook High School
Shelton High School
Southington High School
Suffield High School
Wilton High School
Eastern Connecticut State University
Connecticut College
Sacred Heart University
Quinnipiac University
University of Connecticut
University of Hartford
Yale University


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Cheshire High School Best Buddies making pictures for their BB Month Display - the finished product!
by HEATHER MILLETT
Best Buddies Connecticut


On March 1, 2010 Cheshire High School Best Buddies participants gathered together to celebrate Best Buddies Month and spread their mission throughout the entire school.

A Wii Tournament, spring craft activity, and hanging out with friends were all on the agenda for Cheshire’s BB Month celebration.

While some participants and advisors enjoyed an intense game of Wii Bowling, other students drew pictures and made cutouts for the chapter’s Best Buddies Month display case.

Chapter members were also given the opportunity to purchase Best Buddies T-shirts in order to flaunt their BB pride throughout the month of March.

Cheshire High School is a true display of the Best Buddies Mission at work. The chapter holds monthly afterschool activities and the participants regularly get together outside of school as well. Additionally, the chapter’s BB Month display case and the other posters they create throughout the school year are not only publicizing their own club, but also spreading awareness about the mission.

Cheshire High School ended Best Buddies month on a high note with a family night at the CoCo Key Water Resort in Waterbury, CT. The park’s indoor waterslides and entertainment were enjoyed by everyone!


by SARAH MOROCCO
Best Buddies Connecticut

Quinnipiac University hosts Yale University and CCSU for Valentines Day fun!

The Quinnipiac Officer Corps facilitated games, dancing and raffle contests for the entire group.
The Quinnipiac University chapter of Best Buddies hosted an elaborate Valentines dance on February 13th. In addition to the Quinnipiac participants, Best Buddies chapters from Yale University and Central Connecticut State University joined the celebration.

Students, Buddies and Advisors joined together for several ice breaker games, including human bingo. After getting to know one another the crowd gathered together for refreshments and dancing. Each participant was awarded a raffle ticket and tried their luck at winning various prizes from chocolates to stuffed animals.

The Quinnipiac University Officer Corps, who organized the entire event, were elated at the turnout of more than 60 Best Buddies college participants. Student leaders from Yale and CCSU were both eager to organize transportation for their participants to meet other Best Buddies from around the state.

The event was a true display of the Best Buddies mission and highlighted the greater social network provided by the colleges program and Best Buddies CT.


by HEATHER MILLETT
Best Buddies Connecticut


Coventry High School Best Buddies Participants
What began as one inspired student with a desire to positively impact his school and community, has grown into an outstanding Best Buddies chapter.

This year Best Buddies Connecticut staff and advisors from both Coventry High School and Captain Nathan Hale Middle School decided to combine the two small Best Buddies chapters into one. Due to the towns small population and the joint building that houses both schools, joining forces seemed like an ideal option that would benefit everyone involved.

At the start of the year the chapter had one member, the Chapter President, Robert Lundquist. Robert was determined to recruit members and make Coventry Best Buddies a worthwhile experience for everyone involved.

The Coventry chapter kicked off the year with a well-attended and outstanding Match Party. Although the chapters leaders were unsure what to expect, over 60 Best Buddies participants and their family members arrived eager to see what Best Buddies is all about! The chapters Match Party laid the foundation for an exciting year.

The Coventry chapter is now 11 Buddy Pairs strong. The chapter enjoys monthly activities and authentic one-to-one friendships. The Buddy Pairs take pleasure in eating lunch together, hanging out, or just simply chatting about their days.

Best Buddies has not only allowed for these participants to learn new things about one another, but also to open their eyes and make new friends. The Coventry chapter is a true example of the positive impact Best Buddies has on schools and communities all around.


by BIANCA SMITH
Best Buddies Connecticut


Shawn from Jonathan Law High School arrived with his Peer Buddy Casey (not pictured) enjoying the Live Music!

Foran Thanksgiving Bash
Paige and Jenna are Buddy Pairs at Joseph A. Foran High School. The two were matched this school year and have already become close friends. They share common interests such as shopping, going to the movies and playing games.
On Thursday, November 19th 2009, the pair attended the chapter Thanksgiving Bash. Paige and Jenna, along with other participants of the chapter, enjoyed dancing, pizza and goodies.

The fun didnt stop there, participant Linny Henry and her brother volunteered to play live music for the event.

The family band played several sets while the Buddy Pairs, participants and family members clapped and sung along. Streamers hung low and laughter filled the room.

Neighboring chapter, Jonathan Law joined the festivities. Buddy Shawn attended with his Peer Buddy Casey introducing her to the individuals he was familiar with in the room, making jokes and getting everyone involved with singing tunes from the High School Musical.

During the chapter event it was made clear that friendship filled the air, the mission was truly in action.


by HEATHER MILLETT
Best Buddies Connecticut

Two participants sticking their hands to the Tree of Thanks

Best Buddies Tree of Thanks
On November 20, 2009 participants from North Haven Middle School and ACES Village School reunited for some food, fun, and dancing. Last year the North Haven Middle School Best Buddies Chapter joined forces with the local ACES Village School in order to provide more opportunities for one-to-one friendships.

ACES Village School is a school for children with cognitive, physical, behavioral, language, and medical challenges; partnering with the North Haven Middle School Best Buddies chapter allows for interactions students may not experience otherwise.

A bus load of almost 70 NHMS students arrived to ACES that Friday afternoon. Immediately, these students scattered themselves among the ACES participants in hopes of making new friends and reuniting with some familiar faces.

The event began with a Giving Thanks activity. Participants traced and cut each others hands on construction paper, colored the hands, and wrote what they were thankful for. These hands then became the leaves on the large Best Buddies Tree of Thanks banner.

When the tree was complete, participants rushed over to the schools gym where the music was blasting! The song Loco-Motion was given a whole new meeting when participants of all abilities joined together to form a train close to 80 people in length.

What a great way to end the school week and start the Best Buddies Year!


by SARAH MOROCO
Best Buddies Connecticut


Some of the UHart group poses for the camera at their Thanksgiving Dinner.

Three dinner tables packed with food, laughs and Buddy Pairs lined the Konover Great Room on the University of Hartford campus.

An UHart Buddy Pair strikes a pose at the Thanksgiving celebration.
On November 21st, more than 50 Best Buddies participants at the University of Hartford celebrated Thanksgiving with a potluck of gourmet dishes and remarkable friendships.

The BBCT college chapter organized the event to give Buddy Pairs the opportunity to share what they were thankful for this year.

Participants lined the buffet table with their potluck dishes including Thanksgiving must-haves like, turkey, stuffing, and pumpkin pie as well as an array of other homemade delicacies.

After socializing over food, each chapter member wrote their Best Buddies Thanks on a leaf and posted them to the Thankful Board at the head of the room.

Chapter leaders also announced Buddies, Amy Winer and Diana Barone, as the Buddy Pair of the Month. The chapter ended the event with a game of Indian Chief.

UHart College Buddy Director, Megan Marino, shared Our Thanksgiving potluck was a huge success! There was delicious food, good friends and fun times.

So many people we able to come and hang out including some students from the West Hartford ACHIEVE program which was a real treat. It was a great afternoon!


by NIKKI BESITKO
Best Buddies Connecticut

Friendship Walk 2009 walkers get ready to support Best Buddies

View the 2009 Friendship Walk Photo Gallery
Thank you to everyone that supported Friendship Walk 2009, making it a HUGE success!

On October 17 more then 400 walkers turned out for a beautiful day to help increase awareness and raise funds in support of programs that promote friendship and inclusion in middle schools, high schools and colleges across the state.

Together we raised over $28,000 for Best Buddies Connecticut programs.  The Best Buddies CT Friendship Walk included a 1- or 3-mile walk starting at North Haven Middle School. Both routes concluded at the Finish Celebration with lunch, team and fundraising awards and entertainment by the Sunshine Road Band!

Top Individual Fundraiser:
Bridget Kaufman

Top Team Fundraiser:
Best Buddies Conn (Connecticut College)

Special thanks to our many generous sponsors:

Event Sponsors:
DCF - Department of Children and Families
HOPE - Homes and Opportunities Provided for Everyone
PAC - Partners United for Children
M&M Faces - Meriden & Middletown’s Foster Care Adoption and Community Education Services
HHH - The Hearts Hands and Homes Community Collaborative
FAM - Foster Adoptive Mission
Charter Oak Insurance and Financial Services
Café Romeo
Elm City Parent.com

In Kind Sponsors:
Cohen’s Bagel Company
Crystal Rock Water Company
Koffee on Audubon
Stop and Shop
Subway
The Mobile DJs

For more information on the 2010 Friendship Walk please contact:

Nikki Besitko | State Director
E-Mail: NikkiBesitko@bestbuddies.org
Phone: 203-234-3996

John Monico l Event Chair
E-Mail: jmonico@finsvcs.com
Phone: 203-495-1472


by SARAH MOROCCO
Best Buddies Connecticut


Participants were able to get learn about an array of farm animals, including llamas, goats and donkeys.

A crowd formed to help support Best Buddies and have a fun day outside with the animals.

The petting zoo flaunts their own version of Best Buddies.
On October 26th, St. Joseph College (SJC) welcomed a mobile petting zoo to their campus on behalf of the school’s Best Buddies chapter.  Best Buddies’ participants, SJC students and West Hartford residents were all welcomed to enjoy the farm animals and support Best Buddies by offering a small donation.

The Sharon Family Farm, whose daughter Jessica is a college volunteer with SJC Best Buddies, donated their mobile petting zoo to assist the chapter in raising funds. The Sharon Family Farm, which operates out of Tolland, brought along an array of farm animals including, sheep, mini-donkey, alpaca and goats.

"A little bit of effort goes a long way...two weeks planning and we made enough for our buddies to bowl for free, said SJC Best Buddies College Buddy Director, Sara Masella. Sara, along with other chapter members, organized the elaborate fundraiser in just under two weeks. The group was ecstatic with the turnout and raised more than $200 throughout the day. Proceeds from the fundraiser undercut much of the cost for the chapter’s next Buddy Pair activity, bowling.

For more information about the Sharon Family Farm, please go to http://www.sharonfamilyfarm.com/


by HEATHER MILLETT
Best Buddies Connecticut

Two BHS participants modeling their costumes

Branford High School Best Buddies Conga Line

Buddy Jasmine Moore dressed as Hannah Montana
On October 21st 2009, Branford High School’s mysterious Halloween decorations did not frighten Best Buddies away.

The chapter’s participants and family members arrived in full costume eager to get the chapter’s annual Match Party off to a spooky start.

The night began with a very theatrical costume contest. Participants modeled their costumes to all attendees, while the chapter’s officers judged each costume based on several factors including creativity and execution.

Dressed as Hannah Montana, Buddy Jasmine Moore was awarded most fashionable costume with a blonde wig and sparkly accessories completing her look.

Following the costume contest participants scrambled to collect the most candy from the Pumpkin Piñata and enjoyed lots of other treats. When the music turned on there was not an occupied seat in the house as everyone joined the Conga line.

The night concluded after the matches were revealed. Participants put together puzzle pieces in order to reveal a picture of their buddy!  


by BIANCA SMITH
Best Buddies Connecticut

Chapter President Becky and her Buddy Hillary

Best Buddies Pumpkin

East Lyme Fortune Teller
Despite bad weather on Sunday, October 18th, the East Lyme chapter joined together for a Haunted Prom.

Buddy Pairs danced the “Monster Mash” and had their fortunes read in the dark, gloomy but well decorated community room.

With support from the local community center, Camp Harkness and chapter parents the chapter was able to enjoy each others company out on the town.

Members attended dressed up in 80’s Prom dresses, as vampires, witches and pirates. The DJ played all of the members favorite tunes while the music videos played on TV screens.

Parents looked on with excitement and joined in a dance or two. The chapter also brought along their painted pumpkins, including a Best Buddies painted pumpkin.

The chapter continues to impress the Best Buddies Connecticut staff with events such as pumpkin painting, movie nights, bowling and Unified Sports tournaments. See more of East Lyme’s activities by visiting their face book group: Best Buddies ELHS.


by BIANCA SMITH

On September 24th, 2009, the Buddies of Old Saybrook High School took Lyman Orchards by storm at the Best Buddies golf tournament.

Accompanied by the Chapter President Matt McKee and Advisors, Jessica Morison and Peter Kiefer, the Buddies volunteered their entire school day to assist the Best Buddies staff with set up, greeting players and handing out cold waters and snacks.

Eight Buddies from the High School hung out on the “green” as a part of their Life Skills class, learning new skills and utilizing old ones.

Paired with staff members and volunteers, each Buddy was paired in a new one to one friendship, making connections and exchanging contact information with Business leaders and prominent community leaders of Connecticut.

Hailey Wilcox and Anthony Hunter became favorites of the day, showing big smiles, talking with players and selling raffle tickets for players to try their luck.

On several occasions, the Buddies shared their “luck” and ‘putted’ a few golf balls for the players, for many their first time golfing.

Anthony, ecstatic to try a sport he had heard so much about wrote a speech about his experiences with Best Buddies, sharing his knowledge of the program.

Excited to share his words, Anthony was unable to deliver his speech on his own because of school dismissal, but wanted his voice to be heard. He kindly, asked the State Director Nikki Besitko to share it with the audience.

Anthony’s words touched the hearts of the players and volunteers who were present.

The presence of the Old Saybrook chapter participants made the mission clear to all who attended.

The Buddies ended the day by hitting a few balls on the driving range with the Orchard staff and their Chapter President.


by SARAH MOROCCO

A BBCT Buddy cozies up to the beloved Trinity Mascot, the Bantam.
On September 27th Trinity College Best Buddies’ participants sat down with Program Manager, Sarah Morocco, to discuss disability awareness and one-to-one friendships with people with intellectual disabilities in their community.

Students were candid when discussing topics like People’s First Language and ending the use of the R-Word.

The group made the overwhelming agreement that friendships with those with intellectual disabilities could and should be just as authentic as any other friendship in their lives.

The awareness round-table was followed by a Match Party hosted by the Trinity chapter’s Officer Corps and attended by Buddies from the state Department of Developmental Services (DDS) and HARC.

Former Buddy Director, Kevin Sansone, made initial introductions on behalf of DDS to new Trinity participants.

Kevin then launched into some elaborate conversations about local and national sports with the group, keeping everyone engaged in getting to know one another.

“Everyone seemed to have a great time and I think that Kevin is excited to see some (Trinity) baseball players who are joining us for the year,” remarked Shana Conroy, the student leader for Best Buddies at Trinity this year.


by HEATHER MILLETT

On Tuesday, September 22nd Best Buddies Connecticut hosted an assembly highlighting the importance of friendship and inclusion at North Haven Middle School.

The assembly began with a short activity entitled “Circle of Friends”. The activity demonstrated how students with intellectual disabilities may not have the same opportunities to socialize and form friendships with other students at school. Almost 800 students sat in the schools’ auditorium and took a deeper look at how they may be taking friendship for granted.

The assembly’s purpose was to present the value of friendship to all students and peers, regardless of their ability level. This was reinforced as the students watched a picture slideshow of North Haven Middle School’s Best Buddies Chapter.

The assembly was held in anticipation of the Best Buddies Connecticut Friendship Walk on October 17th. The Friendship Walk is a 1 or 3 mile walk starting at North Haven Middle School.

NHMS Students learned that the Friendship Walk is one way they can get involved with Best Buddies Connecticut, and start raising awareness about friendship and inclusion programs throughout their own school, and others across Connecticut.

The assembly was well received by North Haven Middle School’s faculty and students. Emily Altieri, a NHMS 7th grade student, remarked “I took away the fact that I have to realize more that people are being judged in an unfair way; they are being judged because of their disability and that is unfair. I find it sad and unfair when people don’t have friends. I am going to go to the Friendship Walk in support of friendships and Best Buddies”.  


by SARAH MOROCCO
Best Buddies Connecticut


Albert posing before a BBCT Dance with Trinity student leader, Bianca Sims in 2007.

Albert and his Buddy, Shana, sharing their favorite experiences with student leaders at the BBCT Leadership Conference in August 2009.
Trinity College’s Buddy Director, Albert Lognin, is gearing up to celebrate his 19th anniversary with Best Buddies Connecticut this academic year.

Albert has been involved with Best Buddies since the fall of 1990 and was the first Buddy Director in Connecticut. Albert began his experience with BBCT as the Buddy Director for St. Joseph’s College in 1990.

He transferred into the Buddy Director position at Trinity College in 2000. Buddy Director is a leadership position held by an individual with intellectual disabilities in each chapter of Best Buddies.

Albert’s current Buddy, Shana Conroy is a Senior at Trinity College and will be the student leader of the Trinity Chapter this coming year. Albert and Shana have been matched for three years and maintain a model friendship.

The pair often brave new restaurants in the Hartford community and love attending Trinity Best Buddies’ events.

Shana speaks of Albert sincerely, “Albert always has a huge smile on his face every time I see him.  Even if I am having a bad day, hanging out with Albert cheers me up. He makes friends with everyone he meets and can make everyone laugh.  He is definitely the most optimistic and cheerful person that I have ever met.”

Albert and Shana were highlighted by Best Buddies Connecticut at the state Leadership Conference in August 2009. Albert and Shana spoke in front of almost one hundred of BBCT’s incoming leaders at the event’s awards ceremony.

Albert fondly remembered all of his Buddies and the many longstanding relationships he has been able to maintain through his involvement with Best Buddies Connecticut.

Albert paid homage to the Best Buddies organization for being pioneers in advocating for people with intellectual disabilities around the world.   Albert also thanked Best Buddies Connecticut for personally enhancing his life for almost two decades.

Albert not only shared his memories with the student leaders, but also ignited an excitement in the group for another outstanding year to come for Best Buddies Connecticut.


by BIANCA SMITH
Best Buddies Connecticut

WE ARE BEST BUDDIES: Katie and Sarah

Team activities

S’mores by the Campfire

Fun In The Sun
Nearly 100 Best Buddies participants swarmed the Camp Cedarcrest baseball field in Orange, Connecticut, Saturday, August 8th and Sunday, August 9th for the BBCT Connecticut Local Leadership Conference.

Arriving for a fun filled weekend, High School and College participants were eager to learn new ways to successfully build strong chapters and flourishing friendships.

Getting involved and becoming “A Part of the Whole” was the theme for the weekend adventure. Attendees learned from Best Buddies staff and shared their own chapter experiences with one another.

They participated in educational sessions throughout the weekend as well as various team building games, such as “Ship to Shore” which taught each participant to listen closely, follow directions and work together under pressure.

One college player was skillful and victorious in her strategy; she was deemed “Captain Awesome” for the remainder of her camp stay setting a precedent for the activities to come. Other teambuilding activities were led by the staff from Team Pride.

Teamwork didn’t stop at the training and activities. Participants and Staff pitched in to keep the camp clean and many teams worked together after meals to wash dishes and clean floors.

The fun and excitement continued through the entire weekend as the Best Buddies Connecticut Staff honored eighteen outstanding chapters.

For their dedication and commitment six chapters from each program were awarded for their excellence (listed below).

During the Awards Ceremony, the night began to wind down while participants enjoyed S’mores by the campfire before heading off to the cabins for a nights rest.

The weekend came to an end on Sunday afternoon. Before leaving the campus, teams gathered to ensure that no items or trash was left behind.

To show the success of the weekend, all who attended departed camp with smiles on their faces and waving to new friends, promising to keep in touch during the school year and work together for regional chapter activities.

College Awards:

Outstanding Leadership:
Emilie Latainer of Sacred Hear University

Outstanding College Buddy Director:
Joe Cefoli of Fairfield University

Outstanding Officer Corps:
Southern Connecticut State University and Connecticut College

Outstanding Chapter:
Sacred Heart University

Most Outstanding Chapter:
Quinnipiac University


High School Awards: Southwest Region

Most Outstanding Chapter:
Old Saybrook High School

Outstanding Chapter:
East Lyme High School

Outstanding Chapter President:
Rebecca Smith of East Lyme High School

Outstanding Buddy Director:
Anthony Hunter of Old Saybrook High School

Outstanding Officer Corps:
Ridgefield High School

Outstanding Leadership:
Joseph A. Foran High School


High School Awards: Northeast Region

Most Outstanding Chapter:
Glastonbury/RHAM High School

Outstanding Chapter:
North Haven High School

Outstanding Chapter President:
TJ Williams of East Granby High School

Outstanding Buddy Director:
Andrew White of Southington High School

Outstanding Officer Corps:
Glastonbury/RHAM High School

Outstanding Leadership:
Southington High School



by SARAH MOROCCO
Best Buddies Connecticut

Elizabeth Anderson, Natalie Osborne, Megan Tuttle, and Rebecca Smith represented the BBCT High School program at the Leadership Conference’s 80s dance.

Christine Coppola from the University of Connecticut, Sara Masella from St. Joseph’s College and Bridget Kaufman from Wesleyan University pose on Indiana University with BBCT Colleges Program Manager, Sarah Morocco.

Best Buddies Connecticut students and staff on their way to the Leadership Conference’s 80s themed 20th Anniversary celebration.
Seven of Best Buddies Connecticut student leaders from CT high school and college programs attended the Best Buddies International Leadership Conference at Indiana University in Bloomington, IN.

In addition to educational workshops and state meetings, students and staff celebrated the 20th Anniversary of the Best Buddies organization.

Representatives from Connecticut’s college and high school programs spent three days in the classroom learning how to successfully run a Best Buddies’ Chapter at their school.

Education topics included effective leadership, community engagement, fundraising and advocacy.

Students also heard from motivational speakers, Best Buddies’ staff and Best Buddies International founder, Anthony Kennedy Shriver.

Together, over 800 Best Buddies participants celebrated the 20th Anniversary of the organization and envisioned the future of Best Buddies and a worldwide community of inclusion for people with intellectual disabilities.

Students grabbed their sweatbands, scrunchies and leggings to ring in an 80s themed dance complete with glow-sticks, music from the decade and a countdown to the 20th Anniversary.

Best Buddies Connecticut students returned home educated and motivated to lead their chapter’s in successfully spreading the mission of one-to-one friendships throughout their communities.


by BIANCA SMITH
Best Buddies Connecticut


Anthony Hunter and Matt McKee
One year has passed and a lifetime ahead of them, Matt McKee and Anthony Hunter met at Old Saybrook High School in the fall of 2009.

The pair was matched at the start of the year and despite a transition in leadership, the two were successful at building their friendship and becoming popular topics of conversation within the school halls.

Both were honored for being student of the month and have become “Ambassadors of Change,” educating their fellow classmates on the importance of Best Buddies and Friendship.

In the 2008-2009 school year, Matt and Anthony approached their Advisors and Program Manager about becoming a part of their chapter’s leadership and have helped in implementing a system that would lead the chapter to becoming Connecticut’s Outstanding Chapter.

In addition, Anthony was also named Outstanding Buddy Director for his dedication to the chapter. This upcoming school year, the pair will be looking forward to taking the chapter to the next level.

Matt will work as the chapter’s President with Anthony alongside of him as Vice President. Daily, they push each other to go the extra mile. Playing as teammates on their school soccer team and hanging out around town.

Anthony and Matt made their friendship and their goals for their chapter apparent as the “Mission in Action” speakers at the 1st Annual Connecticut Local Leadership Conference and to their fellow leaders it was clear that these friends are a success in their own right and have much more to offer.

So when you’re in town and you see the friends smile and wave as they are always eager to share their friendship with all.


by RYAN SWEENEY


Students from the Best Buddies North Haven MS Chapter and ACES spend time hanging out together
In November 2008, ACES Village School, located in North Haven, CT joined forces with the North Haven Middle School chapter.  ACES, a school for Children with Cognitive, Physical, Behavioral, Language and Medical Challenges, were seeking an interactive peer based program for their students.  North Haven Middle School was the perfect match, as they had a remarkably high student volunteer base.

Thanks in large part to club Advisors Jeanne Mangino and Tori West of North Haven Middle School and Randi DelGuidice Rebecca Hunt and Cherri Collins of ACES, the program was delivered superbly to over 90 participants.

North Haven Middle School and ACES students enjoyed a plethora of fun and engaging activities throughout the year.  The partnership kicked off with two get-to-know-you bingo events, followed by a Best Buddies banner making party and a dance contest party.

To end the successful school year, NHMS visited ACES School for a Best Buddies t-shirt decorating party.  Members enjoyed designing t-shirts with a variety of colorful paints and most importantly an abundance of talking and laughter.

Both schools are excited to join forces again in the fall, as they plan to continue hosting many fun and engaging activities.



by RYAN SWEENEY

View our 2009 Best Buddies Prom @ Rocky Hill High.
On Saturday May 16th, Rocky Hill High School Best Buddies hosted the Northern Region Best Buddies Prom 2009.

Best Buddies High School chapters from Bristol Eastern, Branford, Southington, Glastonbury, RHAM and Rocky Hill along with Wesleyan University rocked the night away.

The Prom began with a pizza and punch dinner followed by the cutting of a celebratory cake and then the eagerly awaited dancing begun.  The dance floor was packed all evening long, with participants from all schools dancing to their favorite tracks.

Highlights of the evening included a giant conga line, a costume version of 'YMCA' and the eventful limbo pole.  At the end of the evening an array of prizes were raffled to lucky winners.

According to Gabrielle Dragotta, Chapter President from Glastonbury and RHAM High School, “their chapter had a great time at the prom, meeting and dancing with members from other chapters.”

She further added, “Rocky Hill High School did a great job coordinating and putting everything together.  The cafeteria with all of the decorating and balloons looked awesome!”

Gabrielle and many others are already looking forward to the Rocky Hill Best Buddies Prom 2010.  An exciting night in Rocky Hill will be a lasting memory for all involved.


by SARAH MOROCCO

Steve Antonson and Matt Mihaleas, outstanding Sacred Heart University Buddy Pair, flash their best smiles.
Over the past two years, Steven Antonson and Matthew Mihaleas have cultivated a model Best Buddies friendship.  After being matched in 2008, Steve and Matt have continuously gone above and beyond in their friendship for each other.

In their one-to-one time the pair loves to play sports together, including basketball, ping pong and pool.  SHU participants can often find Matt and Steve sneaking off to get a quick sports game in during chapter events.

Steve was a welcomed guest at Matt's most recent birthday party and Matt returned the favor by cheering Steve on at many of his SHU hockey games this year.

Sacred Heart chapter participants have seen the pair's friendship grow by leaps and bounds.  “Matt and Steve act like they are twins, like they are two halves of a whole. They never cease to amaze me!” says Sacred Heart University's College Buddy Director, Emilie Latainer.

Emilie continues that it has been amazing to see Matt open up and share his personality to the chapter with Steve's consistent encouragement.

Whether the pair is decorating gingerbread houses, making Best Buddies t-shirts or dressing as their favorite duo, Mario and Luigi, for various SHU events, they are truly exhibiting the mission of Best Buddies.


by BIANCA SMITH

During the month of March, the East Lyme chapter celebrated Best Buddies month in style.

Rebecca Smith, Chapter President of Best Buddies and the chapter's Officer Corps joined together to plan an empowering week at East Lyme High School educating their fellow peers about the many similarities they may have with individuals with intellectual disabilities.

Focusing on the similarities rather than the differences lead Kiersten Sinko, Events Coordinator of the East Lyme Best Buddies chapter, to write two articles about Best Buddies week held at her school.

The chapter was featured in a two page layout which was a group effort highlighting the efforts of the chapter not only for the week long celebration but throughout the school year.

The authors highlighted the Unified Sports team the chapter participated in and the special bonds shared between Buddies, families their new found friends.

SOURCE:
Download PDF Article - The Viking Saga


by SARAH MOROCCO

Wesleyan Midnight Madness E-Board and event volunteers.

A Wesleyan Midnight Madness team gets points for duct taping a team member to the wall!
Students at Wesleyan University, in Middletown, and Sacred Heart University, in Fairfield, rallied their campus' together in spring 2009 to participate in Midnight Madness, a 12-hour scavenger hunt and fundraiser, to support Best Buddies Connecticut.

The events raised almost $10,000 for Best Buddies CT programs and broadened state-wide awareness of the mission of Best Buddies.

Student leaders from both Best Buddies' chapters worked diligently to plan an outrageous hunt and get community and campus support through sponsors and in-kind donations from local businesses, students and family members.

Participants spent the day scouring their campus for booty, visiting supporting businesses and documenting their shenanigans through pictures and videos.

Each task accomplished and each dollar raised got teams closer to prizes.

Grand Prize winners in scavenger hunt points and fundraising were able to take home Student City vacation packages, I-pods, stocks of Red Bull, gift certificates and various other packages.

Shortly after their event, the student planning board for Sacred Heart's Midnight Madness was awarded Fundraiser of the Year from the BLANK.

The SHU event, which raised almost $8,000 and included almost 150  students, including two teams from neighboring Fairfield University, was one of the most successful Midnight Madness events of its size nationwide.
 


by SARAH CAROLL

Alan Plavnicky (center) posed for a photo with the Fairfield University Best Buddies graduating seniors Bridget Walsh, Meryl Owenberger, Chris DelBove, Kaitlyn Burke and Rachel Anderson.

Best Buddies Lisa Ellis and Rachel Feyre put on their moves during the dance party.

Rosalie Gandley and Michael Daly pose for a photo with Megan Protas during the Fairfield University Goodbye Party on April 29, 2009.
Fairfield University Best Buddies held their final activity of the year on April 29th.  Chapter officers brought the group together for some of their favorite games, including musical chairs and “pass the hot potato”; everyone in this group loves games.

They also joined together for one last Macarena and another perennial favorite, The Electric Slide.  The activity was a perfect way to wrap the year for this chapter full of vibrant personalities and loving friendships.

Five graduating seniors were popular that night, as they enjoyed the final Best Buddies activity of their undergraduate careers.

Most striking was the atmosphere of comfort and camaraderie among members. Everyone settled in quickly, found their favorite snacks, joined in the games they liked, and laughed raucously together.

Joe Cefoli, College Buddy Director, and the Fairfield University Chapter Officers hosted the activity with generosity and ease, though tinged with sadness.  Addresses were exchanged, goodbyes said.

Many hugs tied the evening up with a bow.  See you in September!

East Lyme High School Buddy Pairs to run together in Cheshire Half Marathon & 5K

“The Brother I Never Had”

Buddy Pair Hits the Slopes, Discovers True Friendship

Best Buddies Connecticut Chapters Gather to Celebrate the Legacy of Eunice Kennedy Shriver

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