Chesapeake, Northeast Best Buddies Programs Display Unity

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While the two Pasadena high schools are usually pitted against each other, the Best Buddies groups are joining together.

The weekend before Halloween, the Chesapeake High School Best Buddies program held a Halloween party and invited Northeast High School’s program.

“Our chapter presidents met each other at a conference in Indiana,” said Beth Bogard, the adviser for Chesapeake’s Best Buddies chapter. “Through that, they decided, ‘Hey, we need to get together; we need to do some functions together.’ It was all student-run.”

The Halloween party featured pumpkin painting, face painting, dancing and karaoke. Roughly 35 students from both schools were in attendance, according to Bogard.

“It doesn’t matter what school you’re from,” Bogard said. “You’re there because you want to make more friends, and it’s all about building friendships.”

The event was so successful that the groups decided to keep the momentum going and sit together at the Dena Bowl.

“Hopefully, we’ll be seeing some of the people we saw at the dance and getting everyone to talk again, just creating stronger friendships with people they may not already know,” said Alyssa Garofalo, the vice president of Chesapeake’s Best Buddies program.

At the Dena Bowl, there will be two honorary captains from each school.

“They’ll go out with the football captains for the official coin toss in front of the spectators and get recognized as honorary captains,” said Timothy Swann, the Best Buddies adviser at Northeast.

This is an invitation that Rob Elliott, the Chesapeake football coach, extends to the Best Buddies program for every home football game, Bogard said.

“It’s wonderful that he did that,” Bogard said. “I’ve had a student come out and join in the coin toss for every home game with their Best Buddy.”

Best Buddies is the largest program in the nation that’s focused on ending social, physical and economic isolation of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. It connects students with disabilities to students who don’t have disabilities.

“It’s important to get our buddies together and invite them out to other events and include them and give them the high school experience anyone else would have,” Garofalo said.

The tie between schools gives the program and its students a broader perspective, Swann said.

“Since we’re geographically tied together, even though we have friendly competition, we still want to include these kids to have the realization that they are part of a larger unit, and that includes all of Pasadena,” Swann said.

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