SHS Best Buddies chapter invites community to upcoming walk

Since Best Buddies chapters from around Indiana can’t gather for this year’s Friendship Walk in Indianapolis, they have been encouraged to do one in their own community.

Seymour High School’s chapter is inviting the public to participate in its walk at noon April 24 at the school’s track at Bulleit Stadium. Registration starts at 11 a.m.

The cost is $5, and all proceeds will go to the SHS chapter to cover annual dues and fund club activities.

Best Buddies International is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to establishing a global volunteer movement that creates opportunities for one-to-one friendships, integrated employment, leadership development and inclusive living for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

SHS has a Best Buddies friendship program that fosters one-to-one friendships between individuals with and without intellectual and developmental disabilities. That offers social interactions while improving the quality of life and level of inclusion for a population that is often isolated and excluded. They gain self-confidence and self-esteem and share interests, experiences and activities that many others enjoy.

During the Friendship Walk, there will be two different courses for walking, food and activity booths.

"We hope that this event will allow us to show the community what these students have been doing this year and last year with their friendships," said Alanie Flack, a special education teacher with The Academy at SHS. "It truly is amazing to see the friendships form between the buddy and their peer. We hope that the pairs will get to spend some time together and enjoy the day."

The chapter is seeking donations for food and activities, volunteers to help with the activity booths and event participants. 

Activity ideas include cornhole, making friendship bracelets, face painting or temporary tattoos, a cake walk, a hula hoop or football toss, a fish bowl toss and sand art. Flack estimates the event will run until at least 2 p.m.

Those interested in volunteering or donating may contact Flack by emailing [email protected] or calling or texting 317-643-0398.

"We have about 30 members that we hope will participate," Flack said. "Since this is our first try at an event like this, we aren’t exactly sure how many will participate, but we hope we have lots of interest."

This is the second year for Best Buddies at SHS. The club had a match party in November, where peers and buddies met and got to know one another.

Since then, buddy pairs have participated in activities together both in and out of school.

"Peer buddies commit to maintaining weekly contact with their buddy. That could be a phone call, text messaging or chatting at school," Flack said. "Peers also commit to two activities with their buddy each month. That can be a chapter activity or something the pair plan on their own."

Peers are encouraged to include their buddy in any of their typical activities.

"Many of our buddies miss out on traditional high school experiences without the support of a peer," Flack said. "Students have gone to sporting events, gone out to eat, attended community events, hung out at their homes and participated in holiday activities with one another."

The only other fundraiser the SHS group has held this year is T-shirt sales, so the upcoming walk is important to keep an important program going at the school.

"We have seen students really bond and develop friendships," Flack said. "For some of our students, this may be the first real friend they’ve ever had. Students and families are creating connections and giving one another support."

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What: Best Buddies Friendship Walk

When: Noon to 2 p.m. April 24 (registration from 11 a.m. to noon)

Where: Seymour High School’s Bulleit Stadium

Who: Open to the public

Cost: $5 (includes walk, activities and food)

Proceeds: Seymour High School Best Buddies chapter

Help out: To donate food or volunteer at an activity booth, email Alanie Flack at [email protected] or call or text 317-643-0398