Daily Point of Light # 2686 May 21, 2004

The Best Buddies Chapters at Brien McMahon and Norwalk High Schools are student-run mentoring initiatives that match high school students with developmentally and intellectually challenged students in the same school in order to relieve the social isolation felt by many students with special needs.

Best Buddies is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to enhancing the lives of people with mental retardation by providing opportunities for one-on-one friendships in order to decrease the social seclusion felt by students with special needs. Founded in 1989 Anthony K. Shriver, Best Buddies has grown from one chapter on one college campus to a thriving international organization that actively operates on more than 750 middle school, high school and college campuses in the United States, Canada, Egypt and Greece.

The City of Norwalk is unique in that it has two high schools. Both Brien McMahon and Norwalk High School have successfully launched very active Best Buddies chapters. While each school does its own fundraising and runs its own chapter, the two Best Buddies chapter will often join together for larger events such as a year-end picnic June and the annual trip to neighboring Westport for their Best Buddies Ball in March.

The Best Buddies chapters have held raffles with concert tickets as the coveted prize, have held a bake sale to support another Best Buddies State chapter officer who tragically experienced a fire in his home and have traveled to a neighboring community to assist with another Best Buddies fundraising activity. Buddies and peer buddies have, in addition to the above, attended school athletic events, toured a local artist’s studio, attended a holiday tree lighting event, gone bowling and hosted an ice cream social. They regularly spend lunchtime together and typically meet monthly to discuss progress and plan future events. Pizza and soda get-togethers are enjoyed by buddies and peer buddies alike, and the friendships that have developed are genuine and supportive.

Most recently, buddies and peer buddies of the Best Buddies chapters worked in collaboration with the Lower Fairfield Regional Center in Norwalk on a clean-up day at Lower Fairfield in preparation for the opening of the facility’s new Respite Center. An ongoing relationship is being forged with the mentally retarded residents of the Lower Fairfield Regional Center to the delight of the Center’s Director, Patricia West. The collaboration has not gone unnoticed by Peter O’Meara, Commissioner of the Department of Mental Retardation for the State of Connecticut.

Best Buddies Chapter members have created a new awareness and have put new emphasis on inclusion of those with special needs at both Brien McMahon and Norwalk High Schools. Their dedication to those with developmental and/or intellectual challenges in exemplary, and they; are creating a more welcoming environment at their schools in which all students can grow and progress. Their successes are simply the result of the love and commitment that they bring to their relationships with their special needs buddies. Best Buddies has become and will continue to be a welcome addition to Norwalk.