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by CHELSEA HREN
Best Buddies Wisconsin
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Every year there are those certain chapters that go above and beyond as a chapter. These chapters are run by strong student leaders, have mutually enriching friendships, and embody the Best Buddies mission. Two chapters, one high school and one college, are awarded the “Outstanding Chapter of the Year Award” by Best Buddies Wisconsin at Leadership Conference each July.

Along with a framed certificate, representatives from these chapters are invited on stage during the opening ceremonies of Leadership Conference along with representatives from other states’ Outstanding Chapters to be recognized internationally by Best Buddies. This year’s Best Buddies Wisconsin winners were Shorewood High School and Carroll University.

Shorewood’s 2013-14 chapter was run by juniors Charlotte Meyer, Cassidy Currier, and Anna Mueller, along with freshman Noah Wolfe. This group of student officers was supported by advisors Chris Gagne and Andy Carey. The chapter was made up of 40 members, with 12 matches.

Cassidy Kelber of Shorewood High School explains why their chapter was deserving of the award:  

Shorewood has pushed very hard this year to improve our chapter. At Leadership Conference last year, we decided that we wanted to be Chapter of the Year. We wanted to be that one chapter that everyone tries to be like, so there needed to be some changes in our program.

First of all, we decided that there should be a group lunch every week. So we picked every Friday and it’s really nice to have so many lunches. It makes it much easier for those members who are very busy with outside commitments to participate. We also decided to do new things, for example we painted pottery, and recruited a lot more members than in the past.

One huge thing that we did was a trip to Hawaii! We raised $40,000 so that during spring break some of us could go to Hawaii through Wilderness Inquiries. It was a life-changing experience and everyone had a fantastic time. It showed the buddies, their parents, and the community, that we’re really doing something amazing with this club. We’ve had multiple parents text and email us throughout the year thanking us for all we do with this club and how happy their kids are because of Best Buddies. In addition to raising the $40,000 for Hawaii, we also ended up being one of the top Friendship Walk Teams. We think that is pretty impressive.

We think it is pretty impressive too! Congrats to the Shorewood chapter! Below is a picture of the Shorewood chapter's trip to Hawaii.



In 2013-2014, Carroll University’s chapter was led by Justin Sugden, Abby Lucas, Katlyn Leshko, Jacob Huber, Emily Gutjahr, and Lorraine Lee. One of Best Buddies Wisconsin’s newest college chapters, Carroll University, is made up of 70 members and 28 matches.
 
Justine Sugden explained why Carroll University was deserving of the Chapter of the Year title:

Carroll University-In Honor of Andy Telford deserves to be recognized as Overall Outstanding Best Buddies Chapter because we have continued to grow and develop our program in a positive way since being founded three short years ago. Over the past three years, we have been able to establish ourselves as a chapter with the Best Buddies organization as well as our university. We have continued to stay in good standing with both. Our members are role models for what friendships should look like, with their buddy as well as peers, while being advocates for inclusion for community members and students alike. At Carroll we have received two awards since our founding: Most Outstanding Starting Organization and Most Outstanding All Campus Event. Our exec board is always looking for ways to improve and continue our positive momentum in each event, meeting, and conversation we have.

Congratulations to the Carroll University chapter! Below is a picture of Carroll University chapter members.



Congratulations to both of the Best Buddies Wisconsin Outstanding Chapter of the Year Award winners! We are thankful for your hard work and dedication to the Best Buddies mission, and look forward to what your chapters have in store for this school year.
Support our friendship programs in Wisconsin: DONATE or VOLUNTEER at Best Buddies today.


by RACHEL KONETZKE
Best Buddies Wisconsin
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On Tuesday, July 22, 2014 Best Buddies Wisconsin staff headed down to Indiana University to prepare for over 2,000 students from around the world to join them on Friday, July 25, 2014 for the Best Buddies Leadership Conference: Journey to Innovation. This year is a special year for Best Buddies, as it marks the 25th Anniversary of the organization.

Sixty-two Best Buddies Wisconsin chapter members, 12 volunteers and 1 intern boarded a bus to Bloomington, Indiana to attend the inspirational conference. Student leaders attending Leadership Conference (LC) had the opportunity to meet with fellow student leaders from all over the world, learn how to successfully run their chapters, gain leadership skills, discuss their role in the disabilities rights movement and gain needed motivation in preparation for the 2014-2015 school year.

Within our group of 62 chapter members, Best Buddies Wisconsin also brought 3 ambassadors. The ambassadors that attend the conference sharpened their public speaking and conversational self-advocacy skills. Our 12 conference volunteers took time out of their summer to travel with us to act as speech coaches for the many ambassadors attending LC from all over the world.

In addition to our student leaders and volunteers, Best Buddies Wisconsin was honored to have our Advisory Board Chair, M.J. O’Meara, attend this year’s Leadership Conference with us.

If you’d like to see pictures from LC and the 2013-2014 school year, check out our Facebook page HERE. We can't wait to see how our student leaders build on the things they learned at LC and make their chapters even stronger in the coming school year!
Support our friendship programs in Wisconsin: DONATE or VOLUNTEER at Best Buddies today.


by CHELSEA HREN
Best Buddies Wisconsin
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Best Buddies Wisconsin would like to extend a HUGE thank you to all of our amazing student volunteers, faculty advisors, and supporters for another successful year. This past school year saw our membership base grow, our number of matches increase, and our Friendship Walks continue to strengthen. None of this would be possible if it weren’t for our dedicated volunteers. Because of you Best Buddies Wisconsin was able to…
  • Spread our message of inclusion to nearly 3,000 chapter members
  • Create about 650 matches
  • Bring awareness to our communities with over 1,400 Friendship Walkers who raised almost $100,000
  • Take over 800 chapter members and family members to a Brewer game
  • Host our largest All Chapter Dance ever, with over 400 members in attendance
  • Train 20 ambassadors
  • Host over 30 Spread the Word to End the Word campaign events
  • Start two new middle school chapters and two new high school chapters
This spring we said goodbye to 31 of our student leaders. We wish you and the rest of the graduating chapter members luck in the future, and thank you for your time spent volunteering for Best Buddies Wisconsin.

As we look ahead to next year, Best Buddies is excited to announce that we will be brining the largest group of students to the annual Best Buddies International Leadership Conference that Wisconsin has ever brought. In July, 77 Best Buddies Wisconsin members will be boarding a bus to Indiana University to attend this inspirational conference. Sixty-three Best Buddies Wisconsin student leaders will have the opportunity to meet students from all over the world, learn how to successfully run their chapters, and get motivated for the 2014-2015 school year.

In addition to the 61 student leaders, Best Buddies Wisconsin will also be bringing a group of ambassadors and conference volunteers, as well as our board chair, to Indiana. Three ambassadors will attend conference and sharpen their public speaking skills, and 12 conference volunteers will take time out of their summer to travel to Indiana to be speech coaches for the many ambassadors attending from all over the world.

If you’d like to see pictures from the 2013-2014 school year, check out our Facebook page HERE. Great things happened this past year, and Best Buddies Wisconsin’s future is bright. Thank you to everyone who continues to help us grow and succeed!
Support our friendship programs in Wisconsin: DONATE or VOLUNTEER at Best Buddies today.


by MIKAYLA WANKOWSKI
Peer Buddy at Webster Transitional School
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I have a friendship that is unbreakable and I never take it for granted. Rachel is my best friend. She is kind, caring, sensitive, sweet, and compassionate. From the very first day we met, in kindergarten, we clicked. We are very similar, but also very different. She has blonde hair and I have brown. She has blue eyes and I have brown. She has Asperger’s Syndrome and I have asthma.

Asperger’s Syndrome is a mild form of autism. Rachel was diagnosed when she was two and a half years old. Asperger’s Syndrome is not like a cold. You can’t catch it. Autism is also definitely not a burden. It is more like a present. Asperger’s makes Rachel more unique. Rachel is a wonderful singer and an excellent artist. Rachel is an amazing listener and a funny story teller.

Together, Rachel and I have the perfect friendship. We support each other in every way we can. I know that if I ever need a shoulder to cry on or a person to just listen, she will always be there for me.

We help each other. She helps me with my singing, for sure. Rachel also helps me with my piano playing and my inner Picasso. I help her, as best I can, with math. I also help her put her thoughts into words.

Autism sometimes brings bullying. Girls in middle school can definitely be harsh. However, Rachel is so strong that she bounces back after being pushed down and comes back even stronger.

Rachel and I do many things together. We sit together at lunch every day. We tell each other our deepest secrets. We laugh together. We cry together. We talk for hours. We are also in Best Buddies and have a ton of fun doing the activities every month.

Rachel and I are also starting to speak out about autism. We will be speakers at a conference where we will be explaining our friendship.

If I could describe Rachel in one word I would say that she is strong. She faces bullies and is an inspiration at our school.

She may have autism but that doesn’t affect our friendship. In fact, it makes our friendship stronger and more unique.

Rachel is the very best friend anyone could ask for. Every day, I feel honored to call her my friend. Rachel inspires me every day to be strong, even during the toughest times.

Autism has taught me that when life comes at you, come back twice as hard. Autism has also taught me to stay strong.
Support our friendship programs in Wisconsin: DONATE or VOLUNTEER at Best Buddies today.


by MACKENZIE SIGLER
Best Buddies Wisconsin
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This month, Best Buddies Wisconsin celebrates the 1 year anniversary of our Adult Friendship Program, Citizens! The past year has been truly amazing and we want to share it with you!

Take a look at a snapshot of this year through the eyes of our buddy pairs. The future for our Citizens program is bright and we hope that we can continue to create lasting and happy friendships for many years to come!

For more information or to get involved with Citizens, please visit www.bestbuddieswisconsin.org/citizens.
Support our friendship programs in Wisconsin: DONATE or VOLUNTEER at Best Buddies today.


by DANIEL JAROSZ
Best Buddies Vice President at Marquette University High School
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In the month of March, Best Buddies recognized the Spread The Word To End The Word campaign. The Best Buddies Chapter at Marquette University High School scheduled a whole week’s worth of awareness activities around their school which culminated in a mass in honor of Best Buddies. Daniel Jarosz, a chapter member, gave the post communion reflection about his experience in Best Buddies and the power that words can have. Please see Daniel’s comments below:

First, I’d like to thank you guys for taking time to come celebrate the Eucharist and support the Best Buddies mission. My name is Danny Jarosz and I am vice president of the Best Buddies chapter. Our mission is to establish one on one relationships with people who have intellectual and developmental disabilities (we call them Buddies), and help them notice their abilities so they may become more independent, and eventually contribute significantly to our society so the services of Best Buddies will not be necessary.

However, no matter how successful the members of Best Buddies are in carrying out this mission, our Buddies will continue to struggle to gain the respect they deserve as human beings, made in the image of God. And this is where the majority of you guys get involved. As I said, Best Buddies can continue to grow and do great things, but it is those who are not involved in Best Buddies who play a bigger role. The biggest obstacle that our Buddies face is being respected and accepted in society. So I challenge you guys, even though you are not specifically involved in Best Buddies, to spread the word that people with IDD deserve respect, and should not be the subject of a word that is used to mean stupid and dumb.

Now, I’d like to share a bit about my personal experiences. To be honest, the R-word used to be a large component of my vocabulary. I used it throughout middle school, and even my freshmen year here at MUHS. I failed to respect and accept our Buddies through my ignorance and through my words. However, as the Spread the Word to end the word campaign started my sophomore year I began to realize how much the use of this 6 letter word could hurt someone. My realization continued to grow when I joined Best Buddies last year. And it grew exponentially this year as I was matched in a one on one relationship with a man named Chris.

Chris lives with physical and intellectual disabilities, but that is not why I’m mentioning him. I mention him to tell you about why I care about him so much: his countless abilities. Whether it is his passion for Wisconsin sports teams, or his ability to draw, or his basketball skills even though he is in a wheelchair, there is no doubt in my mind that his abilities outweigh the disabilities he lives with. And if you guys have been day dreaming so far, that is the one thing I want you to understand. Even though it may take a little longer to complete certain tasks, the abilities of our Buddies dominate the disabilities that they are disrespected for every day.

And my final point ties in to the first reading, and listening to God’s voice. When I used the R-word in middle school I failed to hear God’s voice. When we fail to incorporate those with IDD into society, we fail to hear God’s voice. Here at MUHS, we are encouraged to find God in all things, and there is no doubt that I hear God’s voice every time I talk to Chris, and the rest of the Buddies we work with.

I encourage you guys to spread the word about respecting those with IDD to your classmates, family, and friends. Continue the conversation, accept people for abilities they do possess, join the revolution, and spread the word to end the word, so that we may exterminate the services of Best Buddies, and incorporate our Buddies in society. Thank you for your efforts and God Bless.
Support our friendship programs in Wisconsin: DONATE or VOLUNTEER at Best Buddies today.


by CHRIS GAGNE
Special Education Advisor at
Shorewood High School
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As faculty advisor at Shorewood High School, I found myself with a few students a year ago watching their classmates board buses for various spring break trips. They commented that it “wasn’t fair” that they couldn’t go on a trip. It was at that moment that I knew we needed to plan our own trip. I knew about Wilderness Inquiry through my background in Therapeutic Recreation and had it in the back of my mind to connect with them and plan a trip “sometime” in my teaching career. Well, the time was now. Immediately (that very day) I brought up their website and we looked as a class at all the trip possibilities. As a class, we decided to set a goal – Hawaii or bust! A month later, the school board approved the trip and we were off and running.

I knew that traveling with “just my students” was not the experience that I wanted to give them. Traveling as a school group, with their peers, with their best buddies, would be the ultimate. Soon after the school board approved the trip, Best Buddies got involved. With only 6 spots for peers, we chose “who got to go” based on experience, year in school, and whether or not their buddy was going.

The trip as an idea was great, but figuring out how we were going to pay for the trip was a bit more complicated.

We had 9 months to raise the money before it was due in February – one month before the trip.  Each student committed with $800 down with the hope that we could raise the remaining $2,000 each that it cost to go on the trip. Airfare to Hawaii is expensive!

We had one BIG fundraiser, a jail-n-bail that brought in $10,000; two smaller victories with a Packer ticket raffle ($2,000), and a Culvers night bringing in another $2,000; and some smaller in-school fundraisers along with requests to friends, family, and the community. In total, we raised $30,000.

As a teacher, my month prior to the trip was committed to providing curriculum-based learning surrounding Hawaii, group travel, field trips such as to authentic Hawaiian restaurants in Milwaukee or to hear guest speakers on topic such as hula dancing, and a detailed look at our itinerary. Looking back, the preparation was as exciting as the trip itself!

We kept a blog of our trip on tumblr. You can view photos and read the blog at bestbuddieshawaii.tumblr.com.

It’s been a few weeks now, and thinking back on all the learning experiences that happened is a bit overwhelming. I see a new sense of confidence among my students and a closer connection within our Best Buddies chapter. My students know they can travel without their parents, but with the support of friends. They learned to keep track of their things, pack for day trips by themselves, work as a small group to cook for the group, be ok with a group decision, tolerate other’s behaviors, go with the flow, follow directions, and the list goes on and on. In addition, I saw the same and more growth amongst the peers too!

Our plan is to travel every other year so we have more time to fundraise – by the end of this year we will have the next BIG TRIP destination chosen. It was life changing for me as a teacher… I can only imagine the impact it has had on the peers and the buddies.
Support our friendship programs in Wisconsin: DONATE or VOLUNTEER at Best Buddies today.


by ELISE HERVEY
Brookfield Central High School
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The Menomonee Falls High School Best Buddies chapter has had a year of accomplishments. Our chapter has grown consecutively for the last three years. This past summer, we were named “Inclusion Chapter of the Year” at Leadership Conference. Shortly after, Karen Richie, our Advisor was named “Advisor of the Year.” As the celebration of Spread the Word to End the Word approached, Morgan (President) and Emily (Vice President) set out to create a meaningful event for all students.  The way they found to best reach every student was through a school wide assembly on Spread the Word to End the Word day.  As we, Elise (Treasurer) and Hailey (Secretary) prepare for next year we were able to sit down with them and hear the behind the scenes work of the event.

Q: Where did the idea come from?

Morgan: Well, Emily and I had the opportunity to attend Best Buddies Leadership Conference this past summer. There, we had the opportunity to talk to different chapters from across the country. We received several great ideas, but the one that stood out the most was the Respect Rally.

Q: What were the steps taken to prepare for the event?

Emily: When we came back from Best Buddies Leadership Conference, we first approached our advisor with the idea of an assembly. She was very supportive, and Morgan and I got to planning. We laid out an assembly plan and presented it to our Principal, Mr. Golla. He fully backed our ideas. We spent many hours in Starbucks planning, and writing our script. We approached our School Board, Superintendent, and other building staff, inviting them to attend.

Q: Was the Administration Supportive?

Morgan: Our Administration was completely on board with our plan. They appreciated our desire to help create an empowering environment for all students. On the day of the assembly, it was fantastic to see all of our administration in attendance. We even had School Board Representatives at programs throughout the day. Since then, we have been asked to present at a School Board meeting.

Q: What did the Assembly include?

Emily: We started the assembly with Glee’s “not acceptable” PSA to grab the attention of the students. We then talked about Best Buddies at our high school. We had an interactive activity where we read a list of characteristics and had students stand when they heard a characteristic that described them. We also had one of our ambassadors, Anthony, talk about how Best Buddies has changed our school. Kailyn, my buddy, and I also spoke about our experiences in Best Buddies and the hurtful effects of the R-word. We then concluded our assembly with an anti-bullying video made by the Adaptive Community Approach Program (ACAP).

Q: What was the most successful part of the presentation?

Morgan
: Going into the presentation, I was worried about how people would react to our activity “Stand If”, the interactive activity mentioned before by Emily. It was amazing to see student after student rise. When we asked them to look around, with everyone standing, you could see how they started to understand how similar, yet different, we all are. It gave me goose bumps.

Q: How was it perceived by staff and students?

Emily: Like Morgan said before, we were very nervous about how the assembly would be accepted. However, we were amazed by the amount of support we received. The auditorium was near silent the entire presentation, which shows us they respected what we were saying. I have had teachers and students that I don’t even know, coming up to me in the hallways and at lunch, thanking us for the presentation. Many told us they were brought to tears. The response was overwhelming, greater than anything we expected.

You can find the links to our videos below. If you or your chapter have any questions, feel free to contact Morgan or Emily at bestbuddiesmf@gmail.com or by calling Morgan at (414)-403-7995. They are more than willing to answer any questions, or provide feedback.
Support our friendship programs in Wisconsin: DONATE or VOLUNTEER at Best Buddies today.


by ELISE HERVEY
Menomonee Falls High School
Best Buddies Chapter Treasurer
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The Menomonee Falls High School Best Buddies chapter has had a year of accomplishments. Our chapter has grown consecutively for the last three years. This past summer, we were named “Inclusion Chapter of the Year” at Leadership Conference. Shortly after, Karen Richie, our Advisor was named “Advisor of the Year.” As the celebration of Spread the Word to End the Word approached, Morgan (President) and Emily (Vice President) set out to create a meaningful event for all students.  The way they found to best reach every student was through a school wide assembly on Spread the Word to End the Word day.  As we, Elise (Treasurer) and Hailey (Secretary) prepare for next year we were able to sit down with them and hear the behind the scenes work of the event.

Q: Where did the idea come from?
Morgan: Well, Emily and I had the opportunity to attend Best Buddies Leadership Conference this past summer. There, we had the opportunity to talk to different chapters from across the country. We received several great ideas, but the one that stood out the most was the Respect Rally.

Q: What were the steps taken to prepare for the event?
Emily: When we came back from Best Buddies Leadership Conference, we first approached our advisor with the idea of an assembly. She was very supportive, and Morgan and I got to planning. We laid out an assembly plan and presented it to our Principal, Mr. Golla. He fully backed our ideas. We spent many hours in Starbucks planning, and writing our script. We approached our School Board, Superintendent, and other building staff, inviting them to attend.

Q: Was the Administration Supportive?
Morgan: Our Administration was completely on board with our plan. They appreciated our desire to help create an empowering environment for all students. On the day of the assembly, it was fantastic to see all of our administration in attendance. We even had School Board Representatives at programs throughout the day. Since then, we have been asked to present at a School Board meeting.

Q: What did the Assembly include?
Emily: We started the assembly with Glee’s “not acceptable” PSA to grab the attention of the students. We then talked about Best Buddies at our high school. We had an interactive activity where we read a list of characteristics and had students stand when they heard a characteristic that described them. We also had one of our ambassadors, Anthony, talk about how Best Buddies has changed our school. Kailyn, my buddy, and I also spoke about our experiences in Best Buddies and the hurtful effects of the R-word. We then concluded our assembly with an anti-bullying video made by the Adaptive Community Approach Program (ACAP).

Q: What was the most successful part of the presentation?
Morgan: Going into the presentation, I was worried about how people would react to our activity “Stand If”, the interactive activity mentioned before by Emily. It was amazing to see student after student rise. When we asked them to look around, with everyone standing, you could see how they started to understand how similar, yet different, we all are. It gave me goose bumps.

Q: How was it perceived by staff and students?
Emily: Like Morgan said before, we were very nervous about how the assembly would be accepted. However, we were amazed by the amount of support we received. The auditorium was near silent the entire presentation, which shows us they respected what we were saying. I have had teachers and students that I don’t even know, coming up to me in the hallways and at lunch, thanking us for the presentation. Many told us they were brought to tears. The response was overwhelming, greater than anything we expected.

You can find the links to our videos below. If you or your chapter have any questions, feel free to contact Morgan or Emily at bestbuddiesmf@gmail.com or by calling Morgan at (414)-403-7995. They are more than willing to answer any questions, or provide feedback.

Click here to see the assembly video.

Click here to watch the Glee video.

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


by MACKENZIE SIGLER
Best Buddies Wisconsin
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Mackenzie Sigler, Citizens Program Manager, sits down with the newest Best Buddies Wisconsin staff member, Heather Schrader, to talk about her role within Best Buddies and how she can support the Citizens Program.

MACKENZIE: Heather, why don’t you start by telling us how you heard about Best Buddies and why you took a job here?

HEATHER: I first heard about Best Buddies from a family I used to babysit for. They had a high school-aged daughter who was part of the Homestead High School chapter. When I found the job posting on a non-profit career website, I applied right away! Ultimately, I took a job with Best Buddies because I love non-profit fundraising and event planning, and it is undeniable how great the mission of Best Buddies is.

M: That’s awesome! So you have been on the Best Buddies Wisconsin team for a little over a month now. Can you tell us a little bit about what your role is and what projects you’re currently working on?

H: My main focus is our Friendship Walks – we hold Walks in Madison, Lake Country, North Shore, Downtown, and Eau Claire. I just wrapped up securing committees for each Walk and now I’m really focusing on contacting previous team captains and recruiting new ones. One thing I’ve learned is that it is really important to develop and maintain relationships within the community and that is something that I strive to do on a daily basis.

M: It sounds like you work heavily on the Friendship Walks. From what I know about the walks, they are traditionally supported by our school chapters and community teams. Looking at 2014, can Citizens participants be a part of the Friendship Walks as well?

H: Absolutely! Our school and community teams play a really important role in our Friendship Walks because they support our efforts by creating teams and recruiting walkers. For the first time in Best Buddies Wisconsin history, Citizens participants can play an equally important role in our events! We want each and every one of them to get involved with the Friendship Walks in 2014!

M: That sounds great! What are some of the ways that Citizens participants can get involved with our Friendship Walks?

H: There are three ways for Citizens participants to get involved with our Walks.
  1. Start a team! Invite your friends, family, and peers to be on your team. You can all work together to get support and fundraise.
  2. Join the Citizens walk team at your location of choice as an individual participant.
  3. Volunteer at an event. We have a number of volunteer roles on the day of a Friendship Walk that need to be filled. We welcome and encourage our participants to help out as they are able.

M: I’m sure some of our Citizens participants are wondering how the Friendship Walks benefit their program, specifically. Can you tell me a little about that?

H: Our Friendship Walks are one of our biggest statewide fundraisers. Money that is raised through these walks goes toward supporting the infrastructure of our programs at Best Buddies Wisconsin so that we can maintain underwriting activities, providing support to our schools and programs, and recruiting more participation! Because of our incredible volunteer base, we are able to keep our programs not only running, but growing too.

M: It sounds like being a part of our Friendship Walks is a great way for Citizens participants to support Best Buddies! Anything else you want to share with our Citizens participants that want to get involved?

H: The Walks are all-inclusive events that unify Citizens, students, community members, and all of their family and friends to celebrate and support the mission of Best Buddies. Not only are they supporting an awesome cause, but they are super fun events with live music, entertainment, and yummy food! It is our hope that EVERY Citizens participant will get involved in some way.

To sign up for a Walk, go to www.bestbuddieswisconsin.org/walk and click the link for the walk that you want to be a part of. Start or join a team and invite everyone you know to join the party!

To volunteer, take a look at what roles we have available and sign-up online:

Volunteer Downtown Friendship Walk (May 3)

Volunteer Lake Country Friendship Walk (May 17)

Volunteer North Shore Friendship Walk (May 18)
Support our friendship programs in Wisconsin: DONATE or VOLUNTEER at Best Buddies today.


by CHELSEA HREN
Best Buddies Wisconsin
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On Saturday, February 15, 2014 Best Buddies Wisconsin brought Leadership Conference to Milwaukee!

Every year, we hear from our student leaders about how inspirational and fun our annual summer Leadership Conference is for them, so we made it possible for everyone in Best Buddies Wisconsin to be able to experience that right here in Milwaukee. We shrunk that weekend experience down into a one day conference and invited ALL of our participants; students, parents and advisors.

Over 150 people atteneded the inaugural Project: Inclusion. Participants were able to experience an insightful and energetic welcome from Focus Training’s Matt Mueleners, workshops on building an inclusive community, a World Café session that focused on our role as leaders in the disability rights movement, a Friendship Walk kick-off luncheon, an awards ceremony, and speeches from our Ambassadors.

Students, advisors, and parents interacted and learned from each other throughout the day, and volunteers were empowered to take leading roles in each of the sessions. Everyone left feeling motivated, inspired, and excited after a full day of inclusion.

To see pictures from the event, check out our Facebook album by clicking HERE.
Support our friendship programs in Wisconsin: DONATE or VOLUNTEER at Best Buddies today.


by BEST BUDDIES WISCONSIN
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Mackenzie Sigler, Citizens Program Manager for Best Buddies Wisconsin, along with the entire Best Buddies International staff, recently attended Best Buddies’ Annual Staff Leadership Conference in Miami, Florida. While she was there, Mackenzie’s goal was to focus on ideas and initiatives that could have a direct impact on our Citizens program in 2014.

Mackenzie shares her most impactful takeaway points below:

Long Term Recruiting: One of the major strengths of Best Buddies Wisconsin is the size and success of our school programs and the commitment of our students. The good news for our, relatively new, Citizens program is that everyone who is or was connected to our school programs is a potential future participant in our adult program! Citizens focuses on fostering one-to-one, lasting adult friendships and what better way to breed a desire for one-to-one friendship than through our students. In the coming years, Citizens will focus on retaining high school and college graduates that belong to our school programs and recruiting them as buddies in our adult friendship program.

Meeting the Commitment/Established Friendships: Most of you know that to be involved in Citizens, participants must commit to one year of friendship, seeing each other twice per month (2-4 hours) and talking once per week. This metric is a good way to start a match, but every friendship will evolve differently. Just like any other two friends, there will be months that buddies see each other a lot, and months that buddies won’t be able to see each other much at all. Levels of commitment do not identically correlate with how many times buddies saw or talked to each other on any given month, but instead with how their friendship developing.

For example, Buddy Pair A got together three times this month. Each time they met at the movie theatre and were picked up immediately following the movie. Buddy Pair B got together one time this month. They drove together to a restaurant, had lunch, took a walk around the city and drove home. Which buddy pair met their program commitment, A or B? The answer is both. Buddy Pair A has been matched up for a long time and both buddies love the Hunger Games Series – maybe they didn’t spend the entire time they were together talking, but they enjoyed an activity that they are both interested in and they were able to talk about what the next movie will be like during their weekly phone calls. Buddy Pair B only got together once, but they were just paired up last month, so they spent an afternoon having a wonderful conversation and really getting to know each other.

Like Buddy Pair A & B, the relationship you form with your buddy will be different than any other pair in Citizens. The most important thing is that you are committing to your friendship and developing a long-lasting bond. Often times, if our buddy pairs stay committed to Citizens for one year, they will want to continue their friendship. At this point, buddies can reach “Established Friendship Status.” Established Friendship Status (EFS) is a term we give to buddy pairs that have created a strong friendship with each other and intend to maintain the friendship going forward. Ultimately, EFS is one step on the path to helping us accomplish our vision of putting Best Buddies out of business.

Friendship Walks: Up until this year, Citizens participants have not had an opportunity to play role in our Annual Friendship Walks. We hope to see all Citizens participants at a walk this year! Each of our four walks will have a Citizens group team that participants can join when they register. Participation in the walks is free, but Citizen participants can fundraise for the opportunity to earn incentives and prizes! Citizens even have a chance to be one of our top fundraisers and earn their spot in our VIP celebration

More details on all of these ideas and initiatives will be distributed as they are finalized. If you have any questions about joining Citizens or becoming a guest blogger, please contact Mackenzie Sigler via phone at (414)271-1470 or via e-mail at mackenziesigler@bestbuddies.org.
Support our friendship programs in Wisconsin: DONATE or VOLUNTEER at Best Buddies today.


by ZOEY MERCADO
Best Buddies Wisconsin Citizens Participant and Guest Blogger
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My name is Zoey Mercado and I am a 24 year old man with Down syndrome. I am one of six children and I live with my mom and my dad in the home that I grew up in. Other than me, I have my younger sister who lives in Kansas City, my younger brother who is a student at UW-Madison, and my youngest sister who is a student at Mount Mary University. With everyone out of the house, I sometimes feel like an “empty-nester.” I’m proud of my brothers and sisters for the lives that they are building, but I sometimes feel lonely without them. For that reason, I wanted to meet someone new, someone to hang out with me inside and outside of the house.

Best Buddies is usually a program for schools, but it was not available in my school so I had never heard of it before. One day, my mom heard about the Best Buddies Citizens program and I decided it was time for me to get a buddy. We filled out the membership application and got in touch with Mackenzie Sigler, the Citizens Program Manger. Mackenzie worked with us to complete the screening process and get me on the buddy waitlist.

Before I was matched with a buddy, I had an opportunity to participate in Ambassador Training Day. Best Buddies Ambassadors is a program that educates and empowers people with disabilities to be self-advocates and speak in their communities. When I participated in Ambassador training, I learned how to write and present an effective speech. I enjoyed learning more about public speaking and how Best Buddies is changing people’s lives.

Shortly after Ambassador Training Day, I learned that I would be paired up with a buddy! On November 12th, I met my buddy, Donnie, at the ManpowerGroup Corporate Citizens match party. I was very excited about meeting him. That night, we talked and ate pizza and got to know each other. I had a great time. Since then, Donnie and I have talked a lot. We haven’t been able to spend much time together yet, but we have some great ideas about things we want to do together like going to the movies (I work at a movie theater), going bowling, and watching a football game.

Although I haven’t been involved with Best Buddies very long, being in the Citizens program has been an awesome experience. I am proud to have a best buddy and I look forward to all of the things that we will do together in the future. In just a few short months, this program has made an impact on me by making me believe that there is a special place for anyone that is different, lonely, or isolated. If you are looking to start a new friendship, build your self-confidence, or become a part of something special, than Best Buddies Citizens is the program for you.

To find our more and get involved with the Citizens program, click HERE.
Support our friendship programs in Wisconsin: DONATE or VOLUNTEER at Best Buddies today.


by DIANE SCHERER
Best Buddies Wisconsin Citizens Program Parent & Guest Blogger
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My name is Diane Scherer and I am the mother of Ryan Scherer, a 27 year old with an intellectual and developmental disability (IDD). My son is very social, he loves to travel, and enjoys spending time with people; but, since he graduated from high school, he has had a difficult time making friends. For that reason, I knew the Best Buddies Citizen Program would be the perfect fit for him.

Ryan was paired up with his buddy, Steve, in early August of this year. Steve is a great guy and (so far) has been a great friend to Ryan and our family. Although the pair seemed to be a match made in heaven, I noticed that I was having a difficult time while Ryan was on his outings with Steve. My husband and I were letting our son go places with a person that we barely knew, and I was having a hard time getting used to that. I’m sure that other parents in my situation can understand the difficulty that I have experienced trusting that Ryan’s buddy would not only be a good friend to him, but will also bring him home safe and sound.

Here are a few tips I’ve found to be helpful over the past few months. In case you’re wondering, all of these tips have Ryan’s stamp of approval! Hopefully, they will put you at ease when your child goes out with their buddy.

· Best Buddies conducts a thorough screening process. Take comfort in knowing that Best Buddies Wisconsin puts all buddies through a comprehensive screening process (phone conversation, background check, personal references, and home visit) and has an excellent reputation.

· Get to know your child’s buddy. When Steve comes to pick up Ryan, he will come in and talk with us for a few minutes. We’ve gotten to know Steve quite well and we appreciate him getting to know us!

· Communicate with your child’s buddy. If your child has any particular fears or anxieties that may be an issue on an upcoming outing, let their buddy know. For example, are they are startled by loud noises, fearful of dark places or uncomfortable in large crowds? Making your child’s buddy aware of these or other concerns will be helpful for all involved in what to expect and how it should be handled.

· Set your child up for success. Practice different social scenarios with them to ensure that they will feel comfortable. This will increase your confidence and theirs!

· Have faith. You have to have a certain degree of trust that this is a good thing for your child. Try to loosen up those “apron strings” a little and watch your son or daughter’s self-esteem soar as they socialize with their buddy!

Learning to let go can be a WIN-WIN for everyone. When your child is out with their buddy, it’s a good thing! After all, that is the goal, right? Aren’t they excited when they are with their Buddy? Aren’t they happy to have someone to talk to other than a parent? Aren’t they glad to come home and tell you all about what they’ve been doing with their buddy? Aren’t you happy you had a little time for yourself? We certainly are! My family, and most importantly my son, has greatly enjoyed being a part of the Citizens Program!
Support our friendship programs in Wisconsin: DONATE or VOLUNTEER at Best Buddies today.


by ERIKA HARTOONIAN
Webster Best Buddies Special Education Advisor
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Webster Transitional School in Cedarburg, WI is very excited to announce its first year of Best Buddies.  Amazing parent, community, and student support is what helped give life to this middle school chapter.  In our first year, we have a total of 47 members, including 13 buddy matches.

Megan Bilsborough has her buddy in her P.E. class, “He made a touchdown and me and my team were cheering him on. Me and Malachi have so much fun, Malachi likes to laugh a lot so when he does, it makes me want to laugh too.”  

Mikayala Wakowski has been a natural Best Buddy, long before joining the chapter, “Rachel and I sit together at lunch almost every day. We did this before Best Buddies, but now at lunch we always talk about Best Buddies. I feel like we have more in common now that we are both doing this club together. I am excited to do more activities together.”

New friendships are being made outside of school too. Heather Goetz and her buddy got together on a Saturday, “After we got home, the first thing we did was go upstairs to build with Legos. Storm showed me how to make a Lego Mario. After we finished Legos, we went downstairs and played Super Mario Brothers. We played two games, then had lunch. “

Webster Best Buddies has had a great start thus far and our chapter is looking forward to the activities and events planned throughout the year, including a holiday baking party, a bowling outing, and a very special Webster Best Buddies Olympics. The group also plans to join other Best Buddies Wisconsin chapters at the annual Brewers game and tailgate and the North Shore Friendship Walk. Check out this picture of the group at their interactive match party!

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


by CHELSEA HREN
Best Buddies Wisconsin
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Best Buddies Wisconsin would like to extend a HUGE thank you to all of our amazing student volunteers, faculty advisors, and supporters for another successful year. This past school year saw our membership base grow, our number of matches increase, and our Friendship Walks hit new levels. None of this would be possible if it weren’t for our dedicated volunteers. Because of you Best Buddies Wisconsin was able to…
  • Spread our message of inclusion to over 2,300 chapter members
  • Create over 550 matches
  • Bring awareness to our communities with over 1,200 Friendship Walkers who raised over  $140,000
  • Take over 800 chapter members and family members to a Brewer game
  • Host our largest All Chapter Dance ever, with over 400 members in attendance
  • Train 15 ambassadors
  • Host over 30 Spread the Word to End the Word campaign events
  • Start our newest program, the Citizens Program, bringing an adult friendship program to the Milwaukee area
This spring we said goodbye to 18 of our student leaders. We wish you and the rest of the graduating chapter members luck in the future, and thank you for your time spent volunteering for Best Buddies Wisconsin.

As we look ahead to next year, Best Buddies is excited to announce that we will be brining the largest group of students to the annual Best Buddies International Leadership Conference that Wisconsin has ever brought. In July, seventy-seven Best Buddies Wisconsin members will be boarding a bus to Indiana University to attend this inspirational conference. Sixty Best Buddies Wisconsin student leaders will have the opportunity to meet students from all over the world, learn how to successfully run their chapters, and get motivated for the 2013-2014 school year.

In addition to the 60 student leaders, Best Buddies Wisconsin will also be bringing our largest group of ambassadors and conference volunteers to Indiana. Seven ambassadors will attend conference and sharpen their public speaking skills, and 10 conference volunteers will take time out of their summer to travel to Indiana to be speech coaches for the many ambassadors attending from all over the world.

If you’d like to see pictures from the 2013-2014 school year, check out our Facebook page HERE. Great things happened this past year, and Best Buddies Wisconsin’s future is bright. Thank you to everyone who continues to help us grow and succeed!
Support our friendship programs in Wisconsin: DONATE or VOLUNTEER at Best Buddies today.


by ALEXIS DAUBNER
Chapter Vice President, Franklin H.S.
2012-2013 School Year
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When I first met Sam Huron my freshman year in high school, I knew almost immediately he was someone I would never forget. He was shy, and kind, and caring. He told the same stories on loop, laughing each time as if they had only just happened. He made every single aid in Rm. 247 laugh and smile. He held their hands and told them time and time again his favorite dessert, and begged for his favorite song, Zip-a-dee-do-dah, to be played again on the computer.

I walked into class every other day, eager to see his smiling face as he perked up, straightened his back, and called "Hi A!" with an outstretched hand and a crooked smile. We spent all of that year getting to know one another in Reading and Communications class, working with flashcards, talking about events from home, and communicating with the Smart Board.

A long summer went by and I couldn't have waited another day longer to see his goofy smile again. Sophomore year came running up and so did I- to Rm. 247 to see my favorite guy. Sophomore year, we worked every other day in Life Skills, learning to read news stories, interact in interviews, and communicate with others through technology. I was lucky enough to accompany the class on field trips as a chaperone to places such as Brookfield mall (seeing S-A-N-T-A was always a must), and the zoo, seeing exotic animals, and of course Sam's favorite, B-A-N-D-I-T, the horse.

Junior year, we worked on potting plants, completing interactive science puzzles, and exploring the greenhouse in Science class It was then in 2011 that I finally became involved in Best Buddies. There was never a question as to who my buddy would be. Sam and I had been old friends now for two years- practically a lifetime to us.

Best Buddies had given us a whole new world of opportunities. We marched in the homecoming Parade; we swayed at the Best Buddies dance; we karaoke'd in front of friends and family; we munched on yummy deserts and explored the annual Harvest Fest at Halloween.

Senior year came with even more surprises- while aiding in his gym class we swam in the pool, walked around the track in the afternoon sunshine, and played fun games like Parachute and Balloon Badminton. As Sam's buddy and Vice President for the Franklin High School Best Buddies Chapter my senior year, we couldn't have been a finer match…two oddballs laughing at jokes that weren't funny.

What I just described was a quick synopsis of four years. Four years of laughs, stories, activities, adventures, four years of friendship with a boy who almost instantly became one of my favorite people in this world.

But what would such a tale be without a finale? In June, 2013, Sam Huron and I graduated high school together, side by side. His mom and sister cheered in the crowd as we walked across our makeshift stage, and received his diploma, his records, and most importantly, his photo album of the whole year in Best Buddies and class. As the crowd laughed and cheered on their favorite Sam, he smiled ear to ear and waved his head back and forth, with me at the handlebars right behind him. I couldn't have been more proud, more excited, more humbled to see Sam complete another milestone in his life.

When I tell people what Best Buddies is, and is becoming, more often than not I see their eyes melt with sympathy, and too often I've heard responses like "ooh... that's so sweet of you" and "you must make those kids so happy." I know right then and there that the true meaning has gone completely over their head, because if I've learned anything from my four years aiding and two years in Best Buddies, it's that working with these kids is never a one-sided engagement. It's certainly not for the benefit of one at the expense of another.

What Best Buddies did for me was to truly allow me to understand how big an impact Sam Huron had on my life, how much I owed him for our friendship. That's right, you read that correctly...how much I owed him. How thankful I was to him. How having him in my life changed me for the better, because since the day I met Sam I knew exactly who I wanted to be. I wanted to be someone who was infinitely understanding and forgiving, perpetually smiling despite the circumstance.

A person who noticed every warm breeze and laughed at every joke, despite its comedic value. A person who never forgot the people that loved them the most. A person who loved unconditionally. I knew right then and there that I had found what my grandmother would call "a good soul", and that I would give anything to be like him.

So whenever I walked into Rm. 247 feeling overwhelmed, or frustrated, or angry, I let it all melt away the moment I passed into the doorway, because there was Sam. I knew that even if the circumstances were different and he had similar problems to my own, he wouldn't let them overcome his smile. Looking back at my whole high school career, hours in drama, orchestra, mock trial, creative writing, grueling AP classes, the arts, I never felt so involved, so 'on track', so entirely at home, as I felt working in Rm. 247 year after year. So it is for those reasons that I owe my life to the marvelous individuals that I met in Rm. 247, especially my Best Buddy, Sam Huron.
Support our friendship programs in Wisconsin: DONATE or VOLUNTEER at Best Buddies today.


by EMMA BROSE
Menomonee Falls Chapter Vice President
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Hi everyone, I’d like to introduce myself. My name is Emma Brose and I am a senior attending Menomonee Falls High School. I was asked recently by my high school chapter Program Manager, Chelsea, if I’d be willing to share about my experience with my peer buddy Samantha. I am so honored and excited to tell you about our friendship!

Ever since I was a little girl, the Special Education community was something I was very drawn to. But not knowing how to get involved, for many years I stayed off to the side. As I grew older, I looked for ways to get involved and jumped at the opportunity to join the Best Buddies chapter at my school as a junior, (the first year it was put in our school district!). Hardly knowing any of the students with intellectual or developmental disabilities (buddies) involved, I decided to volunteer as a peer buddy, a student without a disability that is matched with one of the buddies.

I knew I would be extremely busy my junior year, but I was determined to make this a priority in my life. The very first match party took place in October on a Wednesday. I was a bit apprehensive when walking in; realizing I only knew the Chapter President and Vice President, but none of the others.

I happened to sit down next to two girls, and began a conversation with them. The girl sitting directly next to me was bubbly and friendly, and I instantly liked her. Pretty soon after, the officers announced they were going to give each person a silly band (fun bracelets in the shape of different objects), and we had to find the person who had the same one. As soon as I got my silly band, I glanced over and to my surprise the girl I had started a conversation with, Samantha, was holding the exact same one!


Soon after, we began to exchange contact information and qualities about ourselves, even finding out that we went to the same church! We had been missing each other because they sat in the back and always headed out right away, while my family was on the opposite side. What are the odds?! I hardly doubted that this was a coincidence! She was the perfect buddy for me.

Sitting in the cafeteria that night, I never could have imagined how extremely special Samantha would become in my life, and also how much of an impact Best Buddies as a whole would have on me. I never would have thought I’d have the courage and patience that Best Buddies gave me. It has changed my perspective completely of the Special Education community, and the extreme beauty that resonates from each person in the organization has changed my heart.

Samantha is beautiful inside and out. She has a love for everything Taylor Lautner, owns every CD there ever was (I’m serious), and most of all loves Jesus with everything in her. She is an inspiration to me with her faith, always positive personality, and giggles. For the past two years, Samantha has become so much more than a peer buddy to me. She has become a constant friend, a source of joy in my life, and even more she has become a sister to me.

Our relationship everyday requires attention and perfecting. We have been frustrated with one another, had to work through issues that have arisen, needed to develop more patience, and learn to forgive each other. Like any friendship, it has required dedication. But we have also had some of the most wonderful times; laughter, hugs, eating out together, enjoying each other’s company and so much more.

Those have far outweighed any problem that could have come up and has made our friendship so worthwhile and so beneficial in both of our lives. Samantha has opened my eyes to see things from her perspective many times. And from seeing that, it makes me realize how beautiful and fragile life is and how we need to take advantage of everyday and love the people around us unconditionally.

My life is richer because of this beautiful young lady. I am incredibly grateful to Best Buddies for providing an opportunity for not only people with special needs to create life-long friendships, but for us as well. I pray that you can have a similar experience to mine and that your life is changed as a result. Step out of your comfort zone and take a leap of faith! You will not be disappointed.
Support our friendship programs in Wisconsin: DONATE or VOLUNTEER at Best Buddies today.


by HANNAH MATTI
Best Buddies Wisconsin Alum
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My name is Hannah Matti, and I am a freshman at St. Thomas University in Minneapolis. I joined Best Buddies my sophomore year at Cedarburg High School, after realizing how segregated the special education room seemed to be from the rest of the school.

There were not many opportunities for students with disabilities at my school to be involved in activities with their peers. This was something that bothered me, so I jumped at the opportunity to join.

As each year went by, Best Buddies became more and more popular. Everyone became more aware of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Students even began to correct each other when they heard someone use the "r-word" or other derogatory terms.

Bullying was no longer tolerated, and acceptance became a popular thing around school. It was also exciting to see how Best Buddies benefited not only my school, but both myself and my buddy Jenni.

In the beginning of the friendship, Jenni was shy and we both didn’t know much about one another.

Jenni and I would go to Dairy Queen together to get an ice cream cone or attend different events at our high school. By doing these events together, we started to trust each other and share stories about our friends and family. Not only have Jenni and I gained a friend through each other, but we’ve also both met each other’s friends as well. We would hang out one on one and in our larger group of friends.

School became more fun as well because everyday we would share a part of our day with each other in the hallways. During my senior year, Jenni would walk through senior hallway and say hello to everyone she knew.

Everyone would call her “Green Lightning Jenni” which was a fictional character she created. She loved it! Without Best Buddies, friendships between peers would have been harder to form and my high school would still be stuck in its old ways.

Now that I’m in college, I’m looking ahead to what career I would like to have after graduating. I chose to job shadow at Best Buddies because I really believe in the mission and I wanted to see what it takes for Best Buddies to be successful and maintain that statement.

The staff here is currently planning for the Best Buddies Friendship Walks, which are four months away, and it has been eye-opening to see how much work goes into them. I have learned a lot from my week of job shadowing here and I am grateful that I got to have this experience.


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


by BRIANNA MITTELSTADT
Carroll University Webmaster and Publicist
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It all began about two years ago. I was in the campus center on an afternoon in March; I cannot recall what I was doing there that day. Some students from Carroll's Greek Life were sitting at a table with a huge banner in front of them. Curious as I was, I stopped by the table. One of them asked me, “Would you like to take the pledge to stop using the R-word?”

Judging by the pictures I saw on the table, I knew what word they were talking about and why people needed to stop using it. I jumped at the chance, grabbed a marker, and signed the banner immediately. While I was signing the banner, one of the girls at the table that I happened to know (who is now our College Buddy Director) said something about starting a Best Buddies chapter at Carroll.
I had heard a little about Best Buddies before that point; it was something we did not have at my high school, but I knew people that were involved in the chapters at the nearby high schools. I was intrigued and interested. Fast forward to the following fall. Every year, Carroll hosts a student involvement fair to get students to join one or many of Carroll's various clubs.

I was sitting at a table for another club I was involved with, but I had a few minutes to walk around to see what the other clubs were doing. One of the tables I walked by was for a group on campus who wanted to start Best Buddies at Carroll.

I stopped and asked what that group was all about. “We develop friendships with people with intellectual and developmental disabilities,” one girl said. It was the concept of bringing a Best Buddies chapter I had heard about the previous semester.

I was interested, but I did not have much experience working with people with those types of disabilities. There is always time to try new things and have new experiences, so I signed up immediately and grabbed a reminder slip for the first meeting.

I went to the first meeting and learned more about getting a Carroll University Best Buddies chapter. I was hooked. In fact, I was so hooked that I approached the executive board and offered to do publicity for them, since I have experience with graphic design programs. They took me up on my offer!

That offer led me to how I am involved in our chapter today. I am the chapter's webmaster and publicist. I manage the social media we have, as well as make fliers for events.

Two weeks later, we had our service project at the Artful Bowls event for the Adaptive Community Approach Program in Waukesha. This is where I met the Telfords. Gordon and Susan talked to each of us and told us Andy's story and how Best Buddies impacted them.

I immediately knew that I wanted to remain involved in this club. We later found out that they were giving us a donation so we could be start our Best Buddies chapter. We became an official Best Buddies chapter in January of this year and even dedicated it to Andy. Without the Telfords' gratitude and continued support, Carroll University would not have a Best Buddies chapter.

That day forward, I was very enthusiastic about being a member of the future Best Buddies chapter. I always talked about it when I was around my friends. One night, over dinner at my apartment, one of my male friends asked me if I could describe Best Buddies to him; he said it was for an assignment for one of his classes.

I was more than eager to tell him. Just a few weeks later, at the beginning of spring semester, I was heading to the first official Best Buddies meeting since becoming a chapter in the campus center when I saw my friend. I asked him what he was up to, and he said, “I'm going to the Best Buddies meeting.” I recruited someone to join Best Buddies.

One obstacle we had in our first semester as a Best Buddies chapter was the ratio of males to females. Carroll's ratio of females to males is about 65-to-35 in the first place. My friend was the only male in our chapter that semester.

This was a problem because there were many males from our host sites that had to be matched with females, and it did not work out in some cases because some of them needed a male role model. Another obstacle we had was recruiting and retaining members. We had more Buddies than College Buddies, so not everyone was matched. It was our first semester as a chapter, so there was always room for improvement.

This year so far has turned a complete 360 from last semester. Our membership has doubled! We now have 32 Buddies, 31 College Buddies, and 7 Associate Members. Our male membership has definitely multiplied. We have five very dedicated men this year in our chapter.

That is definitely progress from just a semester ago! Many of our members have previous disability experience, whether if it is from being in Best Buddies before or if they have worked with people with disabilities elsewhere, which is very beneficial to our chapter.

Our Buddies get very excited when they hear from their matches and see them, which has helped them boost their self-confidence and made their experience in Best Buddies worthwhile. We have been told by many people that they are thankful for a Best Buddies chapter or a similar program in the Waukesha area.

When I graduate in May 2013, I will take with me one of the best experiences of my undergraduate career at Carroll University. Because of my involvement with Best Buddies, I have learned to see things from a different perspective, that of a person with an intellectual and/or developmental disability.

Seeing life from that perspective has helped me raise awareness in others about and become an advocate for people with disabilities. I take great pride in what I do for this organization, whether if it is making fliers for an event, hanging out with my match, or participating in a Friendship Walk. I cannot wait to see what this chapter does after I graduate from Carroll. I have no doubt that Best Buddies will only do bigger and better things!


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


by RAQUEL THORSEN
Volunteer - Best Buddies Wisconsin
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My name is Raquel Thorsen and I first heard about Best Buddies back in 2005. My first thought was that we needed a chapter at my high school, so in 2006 I contacted Best Buddies Wisconsin and we were lucky enough to get to start a chapter at Oak Creek High School.

Being the special education advisor for this club has been one of the best experiences ever! I have gotten to meet so many wonderful students, not to mention great parents and Best Buddies Wisconsin program personnel. This is the seventh year for our Best Buddies chapter at Oak Creek High School and it just keeps getting bigger and better.

The beginning of each school year is always super busy. We’ve had almost 100 students apply online to be part of our chapter. It’s wonderful that so many people want to be involved. We have started off the year with a bang—having a pre-football game tailgate as our match party, where students met their matches, sold root beer floats as a fundraiser, and attended the game together. We expect to have 19 buddy pairs who are looking forward to a fun-filled year. So far we are planning a pumpkin farm outing, a Marcus movie night, a bingo party, and holiday bowling.

The beginning of each school year brings a renewed sense of purpose for me and our Best Buddies chapter. I feel so lucky to be part of such a wonderful organization. Every day I get to work with students who really care about others and want to make a difference.

Every day I get to witness acts of kindness and see friendships that most likely would not have been formed if it weren’t for Best Buddies. Every day I get to see students without intellectual disabilities learning so much from their buddies—and those are the best lessons of all.

*Raquel helped start the Oak Creek chapter in 2006, and has been an active advisor ever since. This past summer she attended Leadership Conference in Indiana along with four other faculty advisors, and was able to bring what she learned back to her chapter.


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


by CHELSEA HREN
Best Buddies Wisconsin
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... “Outstanding Chapter of the Year Award” because of their success in running their chapter every year there are those certain chapters that go above and beyond as a chapter. These chapters are run by strong student leaders, have mutually enriching friendships, and embody the Best Buddies mission. These chapters, one high school and one college, are awarded the “Outstanding Chapter of the Year Award” by Best Buddies Wisconsin at Leadership Conference each July.

Along with a framed certificate, representatives from these chapters are invited on stage during the opening ceremonies of Leadership Conference along with representatives from other states’ Outstanding Chapters to be recognized internationally by Best Buddies. This past year, Best Buddies Wisconsin’s winners were Homestead high school and UW-Eau Claire.


Homestead High School

Homestead’s 2011-2012 chapter was run by seniors Madeline Bireley, Nikki Loiben and Connor Kelley, along with junior Kristina Kelly, and sophomore David Tzeel. This group of student officers was supported by advisors Kat Hustedde, Tess Tilley, Lindsay Maslowski, and Barb Dedrick.

The chapter was made up of 67 members, with 16 matches. Throughout the year, Homestead planned fun and engaging activities in school and in the community. Some favorites included an annual bowl-a-thon, pumpkin painting, an outing to a pottery studio, and an end of the year picnic.

Homestead also participated in school-run activities including homecoming, a fall play, and sporting events. The chapter partnered with a community center that ran a program that many of the chapter’s participants with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) participated in, which gave matches more opportunities to get together.

Through its various activities, Homestead’s chapter brought awareness of the Best Buddies mission to their school and their community. Last year’s chapter president, Nikki Loiben, described Homestead’s success the best, “our chapter has made a huge impact at our school.

Since [chapter] members are proud to interact with people with IDD in public, other high school students have learned to respect people with IDD. Every day, I see students who are not members of Best Buddies giving students with IDD high fives and hugs in the hallways… Students with IDD are people first, and that is what we want the community to realize.”

Visit our Facebook page to see a picture of current chapter president David Tzeel, accepting the “Outstanding Chapter of the Year Award.”



UW-Eau Claire

In 2011-2012, UW-Eau Claire’s chapter was led by seniors Nicole Weber and Andrea Strub, junior Renee Gillette, freshman Julia Chelmowski, and community member, Mike Blaisdell. One of Best Buddies Wisconsin’s largest chapter, UW-Eau Claire is made up of 130 members and 50 matches.

Last year, the chapter planned many unique events for chapter members. In November, they planned a Thanksgiving fiesta where members participated in a turkey trot, salsa dancing, and also had a full nacho bar.

They also hosted a “Back to Best Buddies Bash” where two a capella groups performed and members were treated to a full Italian dinner donated by Pizza Hut. UW-Eau Claire is known for high attendance at all of their events, and the student leaders do a fantastic job coordinating with five different host sites from the Eau Claire community, which makes it possible for a wide range of community members to participate in the chapter.

“Three years ago, we were a chapter of 20 members, now we have 130. Three years ago people on our campus didn’t know what Best Buddies was, now you mention it and you receive a nod of acknowledgement. We have made our statement in the Eau Claire community, and people are standing behind us,” explains last year’s college buddy director, Nicole Weber.

Check out UW-Eau Claire’s current student leaders Riley Brandt and Amanda Nell, accepting their “Outstanding Chapter of the Year” award.

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Along with the two “Outstanding Chapter of the Year” awards, Best Buddies Wisconsin recognized four other chapters, two high schools and two colleges, with a few creative awards. Kettle Moraine high school’s chapter was given the “Best Buddies Spirit” award thanks in large part to their effect on their school culture.

The chapter at Oconomowoc high school won the “Best Buddies Community Involvement” award because of their commitment to community service activities including a food drive at their school, volunteering at a food pantry, and a holiday toy collection.

The “Best Buddies Best Activities” award was given to UW-Milwaukee’s chapter because of their unique events which included a UWM women’s basketball game with a half-time on-court introduction, and a bus-trip to a pumpkin farm.

Last but not least was the “Best Buddies Most Improved Chapter” award, which was given to UW-Madison, a chapter whose student leaders worked tirelessly the past year and a half to reorganize and restructure the chapter into the successful one it is today.

Check out our Facebook page for pictures of our high school award recipients and college award recipients.

Congratulations to all of Best Buddies Wisconsin’s 2011-2012 award winners! We are thankful for your hard work and dedication to the Best Buddies mission, and look forward to what your chapters have in store for this school year. 


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


by CHELSEA HREN
Best Buddies Wisconsin
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... Leadership Conference in Indiana.  “It’s important to show our world the abilities people have with intellectual disabilities because they are just like you and I.” This revolutionary statement, made at the 2012 Best Buddies International Leadership Conference by one of Best Buddies Wisconsin’s college attendees, should be spread among friends and family, associates and coworkers, and throughout our communities.

Thanks to a generous grant from the Charles Benidt Foundation, 60 Best Buddies Wisconsin participants attended Leadership Conference this past July, where they experienced the Best Buddies mission first-hand, and learned valuable leadership skills to take back to Wisconsin and apply to not only their chapters, but their lives as well.

Students representing each of Best Buddies Wisconsin’s 34 chapters, including our three new chapters this school year (Bay View, Grafton, and South Division High Schools) were in attendance. Sincere thanks to Cornerstone Band and Northwestern Mutual for their generous support of these three new chapters.

Throughout the weekend they went to training sessions with students from all over the country, participated in individualized state break-outs, and listened to inspiring speeches given by trained buddy ambassadors.

Every minute of the conference was designed to teach student leaders the skills to lead a successful chapter while at the same time remind them of why they were there, the Best Buddies mission.

“I experienced first-hand the great enthusiasm for Best Buddies that I plan to bring back to my chapter…I strongly agree with Best Buddies’ mission and vision, and in turn the programs executed to create an inclusive environment in our schools and communities.”

While not in the classroom, students with and without disabilities socialized at a pool party, karaoke night, and a conference-ending dance. By the time the conference was over, those students not graduating this year were already talking about how excited they were for Leadership Conference next summer.

When asked what she was looking forward to, one of Best Buddies Wisconsin’s ambassadors exclaimed with a smile, “Next year’s Leadership Conference!”

Of the 60 attendees, five faculty advisors and three board members joined the students, making this the first year Best Buddies Wisconsin has brought these two groups to Leadership Conference. Faculty advisors participated in their own training track, and were able to share ideas with one another.

Meeting advisors from nearby chapters was one of the most beneficial parts of the conference, and many of the advisors discussed ways to collaborate and support each other throughout the year. Some even plan to organize a joint chapter event! The board members also had their own training track, and had the chance to eat lunch with Best Buddies’ founder, Anthony Kennedy Shriver.

Attending the conference allowed the board members to witness the excitement of Leadership Conference, and meet all of the dedicated attendees. As one founding board member, Judy Van Handel, states, “attending BB Leadership Conference was an amazing experience…Thanks to all of the great students who attended. You were all so inspiring, and I look forward to seeing all of the great things you will do with the info you learned at Leadership Conference!”

Those student leaders, faculty advisors, and board members that attended Leadership Conference this summer have the same goal – to apply what they learned to their schools and communities so that everyone is aware of Best Buddies’ mission.

One attendee described the feeling of Leadership Conference well, “my sister [a student with a disability] absolutely loved being in Best Buddies. I love this organization because I’ve seen first-hand the impact it made on her happiness, and I want to help improve the lives of others as well. Being a part of this has helped a lot, and I’m very thankful for it.” The inclusion revolution has begun, what will you do today to be part of it?

Visit our Facebook page to see pictures from the 23rd Annual Best Buddies International Leadership Conference.


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


by CHELSEA HREN
Best Buddies Wisconsin
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Andy Telford (right)
“I’m an expert in Andy, not in autism.” When asked to describe her late son, this is how Susan Telford started off her story. Andy Telford was diagnosed with autism when he was three years old. From that point on, Susan and her husband, Dr. Gordon Telford, dedicated their lives to making sure Andy was able to do everything he wanted to do. Little did they know how big of an impact Andy would have not only on their family, but on his classmates and community as well.

As Andy got older, his interests expanded. Susan and Gordon enrolled him in his local 4-H club so that he could try new activities and work with his peers. Art was one of those interests that Andy enjoyed. Andy excelled in sewing, quilting, and railroad dioramas. One year he was awarded “Grand Champion Modeler” for the diorama he entered at the Waukesha County Fair.

He also took home 3rd place at Train Fest – the largest model train show in the United States – for a diaroma of Splash Mountain he built for County Fair.  As you look around the Telford’s home, bits and pieces of Andy are everywhere. “Most everything he made, he liked to display,” explained Susan as she showed off Andy’s artwork that decorates their house.

Andy also enjoyed participating in Boy Scouts. He achieved the highest rank in scouting, Eagle Scout, and was a Brotherhood member of the Order of the Arrow, the Boy Scout's honorary society. Achieving these goals was not easy, however. When Andy started in Boy Scouts, the area council had little to no experience in working toward advancement with a scout who had a disability like Andy's, but that didn’t stop Susan and Gordon from encouraging him to participate in his local troop.

A lot of what Andy’s troop did with him is now used for the national model. Boy Scouts taught Andy skills, gave him an opportunity to do something his peers at school were doing, and his participation had a lasting effect on Andy’s troop mates. The Boy Scout leader of Andy’s troop had a son around Andy’s age that decided to major in Special Education. When asked to write a paper about his first experience working with someone with a disability, he wrote about participating in Boy Scouts with Andy, and how much of an impact that opportunity had on his life and career choice.

Aside from being artistic and being involved in Boy Scouts, Andy spent a lot of time on his family’s farm bonding with their horses. He loved to ride, and he used woodworking skills he learned in 4-H to make bridal and saddle racks for equipment.  He was able to show his horse at the Waukesha County Fair and the 4-H State Horse Show in therapeutic riding.  “People just couldn’t believe how well he rode. He loved riding,” said Mrs. Telford. This was one of the many doors Andy opened for people with disabilities in his community.

When Andy was old enough to go to school, the school district he lived in had students with disabilities go to a separate school, but the Telfords wanted him to go to the same school as his sister. Susan and Gordon talked the principal about their wishes, and Andy was the first one to break the barrier of a child with a developmental disability going to his “home” school.

“All the way along, Andy was breaking new ground. When he went to middle school he was the first one with a severe disability that was in an inclusion program. We made the decision early on that we wanted him to attend his home school with his peers and didn't want him in special education classes only.  We wanted with his peers because that's where he wanted to be... by the time he has in 3rd grade, the kids in his 3rd grade class didn’t think of Andy as different. He had some differences, but so did everybody in the class. He was a member of their class. One of the things I’ll never forget is the time a 6th grader was teasing him on the playground. A little 3rd grade girl walked up to him, the 6th grader, and said ‘you can’t say that about him, and he’s not a dummy, and he can hear, and he’s not stupid. He’s probably smarter than you are.’ Pretty soon there was a circle of 3rd grade kids surrounding this 6th grade boy and they were not just protecting, they were defending Andy, because Andy was one of them.”

- Susan Telford

The Telfords worked hard to make sure Andy was included and led the life he wanted to lead as much as possible. “When it came time for Andy to go to high school, things like Best Buddies gave us another arm to use,” said Gordon. Andy was matched with the chapter president at Kettle Moraine, Sarah La Plante.

“He (Andy) had a lot of ability, but he didn’t have the ability to communicate. Saint Sarah, as we call her, wanted to be his match,” explained Susan. Sarah took Andy into the community, to the mall, to the movies, out to dinner, etc. “Then the kids that Sarah knew got to know him, and then they talked to him and they’d do things with him.  It just kind of spread out from there, whereas before it was ‘OK we see Andy, but we don’t interact with Andy,’ and all of a sudden they’re interacting.”

With Sarah, the Telfords built trust by staying involved and building off the last success they had. If an outing to the mall went well, they allowed the two of them to go to a movie. If that went well, they were OK with Andy joining Sarah’s friends at a sporting event. As the trust built, they trusted Sarah to know what was right for Andy.

Sarah took Andy to their Sadie Hawkins dance, and suggested a prom date for Andy. Because of Best Buddies, Andy had the courage to ask his classmate to prom. “One of the great things about Best Buddies is what the parents get out of it. We were able to go and take those pictures that all the other parents get to take before the prom, and have those pictures forever,” said Susan.

“Until Best Buddies came along, Andy had never been to a shopping mall without his parents, he had never been to a movie without his parents or sister, he had never been to a sporting event without us…I mean I even went to dances with him…That’s what Best Buddies did for him…A story we love to tell is that the Kettle Moraine girls were in the state basketball tournament, so the kids took Andy, his Best Buddies friends, in their car. We were there before they were and he walked right by us. He didn’t want anything to do with me, and went off and sat with the kids…I think the thing that thrilled us through all of this was that once the kids got used to it, they were very accepting. It changed it from Andy, the kid with autism, to Andy, our friend.”
- Gordon Telford

“Best Buddies taught us a ton more about what he (Andy) was capable of, and that he didn’t need us around all the time. We were always the go between, but he didn’t want us to be. He was growing up, he wanted to be independent. And to have the kids accept him and learn how to communicate with him in a way that they could take him places…he just loved that,” Susan remembered.

Although Andy Telford unexpectedly passed away in October 2010, Susan and Gordon have stayed involved in everything Andy loved. They still have his art displayed throughout their home, his horse is enjoying life on the Telford’s farm, and Susan is head of the special needs program for the Boy Scouts. Recently, the Telfords have taken a lead role in starting a Best Buddies chapter at Carroll University in memory of Andy.

When Andy graduated from Kettle Moraine, the Telfords wished there had been something like Best Buddies for him to be a part of as an adult. Carroll University’s chapter is the solution to that problem, and allows other people in the community with disabilities to experience Best Buddies after high school.

The inaugural Best Buddies Wisconsin’s Lake Country Friendship Walk on Saturday, May 19, 2012 is in honor of Andy Telford, celebrating his life and bringing awareness to his community about our organization. To learn more about how you can join the Friendship Walk, visit www.bestbuddieswisconsin.org/lakecountry.


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


by CHELSEA HREN
Best Buddies Wisconsin
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As the school year winds down and chapters plan their year-end picnics, banquets, and parties, Best Buddies Wisconsin would like to take a minute and reflect on the 2011-2012 school year.

Over the past nine months, over 2,000 students have participated in one of our 31 chapters across the state. Almost 500 matches grew into friendships that made a lasting impact on each student involved. Forty-eight student leaders attended Leadership Conference over the 2011 summer, where they learned how to organize and run their chapter, which was evident in the success of each one of our chapters this year.

Four new chapters, Menomonee Falls, Mukwonago, Wauwatosa West, and Whitefish Bay High Schools are finishing up their first year with BBWI. From these four schools, over 250 new students participated, 50 new matches were made, and 9 new student leaders gained valuable skills at Leadership Conference.

During the spring semester, Carroll University was opened in honor and memory of a past BBWI participant, Andy Telford. In its first semester as a chapter, Carroll University recruited 55 members and created 19 matches.

Over 400 BBWI members attended the All Chapter Dance in March, and 800 members and their families enjoyed a Brewer game in April thanks to a generous donation of tickets from the Brewers Community Foundation. Around 800 BBWI participants and supporters joined us at our Downtown Milwaukee Friendship Walk in April, and we are on track to have over 300 walkers at our Lake Country and North Shore Friendship Walks this May.

Next year we look forward to expanding our reach by adding three new chapters, Grafton High School and two Milwaukee Public Schools, thanks to generous grants from Cornerstone Bank and the Northwestern Mutual Foundation. These grants will allow us to bring our mission to both the students at these schools and members of their surrounding community.

We will also have a fourth Friendship Walk location in Madison. Adding this walk location will help impact the Madison area by bringing our mission to the surrounding communities, just as our three walks did in their individual locations this year.

This summer, BBWI will be bringing over 50 student leaders plus five faculty advisors to Leadership Conference in Indiana. This will be the first time faculty advisors will attend this important conference, and we are excited to bring the added knowledge back to our chapters.

Although the 2012-2013 school year brings exciting additions for BBWI, we need to take a moment and thank everyone who made this year so successful. Around 400 of our participants will be graduating, including 21 student leaders. These seniors and student leaders were the role models in their chapters and helped pave the way for underclassmen to continue their chapter’s success.

Our strong student leaders also had support from almost 70 faculty advisors, special education advisors, and host site coordinators, who took time out of their busy schedules to help run the chapters. BBWI would like to thank every individual student leader, chapter advisor, and graduating senior who dedicated their last year of high school to spreading Best Buddies’ message of inclusion.

To those members and advisors returning next year, thank you for helping to make this year such a huge success, and we look forward to working with you again during the 2012-2013 school year!


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


by CHELSEA HREN
Best Buddies Wisconsin
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On April 18, 2012, around 800 Best Buddies Wisconsin members and their families filled the stands at Miller Park and got to cheer on the Brewers as they beat the Los Angeles Dodgers!

Before the game, many of the attendees gathered in the parking lot to tailgate, play yard games, and meet new friends.

The weather was perfect for this annual year-end celebration, and everyone had an excellent time. To see pictures from this event visit our Facebook page.

Best Buddies Wisconsin would like to thank the Brewers Community Foundation for making this possible through their generous donation of tickets to our organization.


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


by CHELSEA HREN & RACHEL KONETZKE
Best Buddies Wisconsin
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On March 7, 2012 Best Buddies Wisconsin chapters across the state kicked off a very important campaign that aims to end the use of the hurtful word “retarded” (r-word). Throughout March, each of Best Buddies Wisconsin’s 31 chapters participated in different activities that aimed to promote the “Spread the Word to End the Word” campaign. Chapters set up awareness tables during their school’s lunch period, recorded and showed PSAs, wore “Spread the Word to End the Word” t-shirts, or invited a guest speaker to their school or a chapter event. Below are highlights from a few of the Spread the Word to End the Word events throughout the state:

University of Wisconsin – Madison

Chapter members at UW – Madison blanketed campus with awareness tables set up at high-traffic areas asking students to sign their pledge banner and help end the use of the r-word. The chapter culminated their “Spread the Word to End the Word” campaign by hosting a movie night with a guest speaker. Around 40 chapter members and a few community members gathered on campus to watch “Monica & David,” a documentary about a couple with Down Syndrome, and hear an inspirational speech by a trained buddy ambassador. Alex Haunty, an ambassador from Middleton, spoke about the impact Best Buddies has had on his life, and how the organization has helped him feel included during high school. He ended his speech by emphasizing the importance of the “Spread the Word to End the Word” campaign and how using the r-word hinders the inclusive culture Best Buddies Wisconsin works to build. Check out a picture of Alex giving his speech.


Whitefish Bay High School

Whitefish Bay’s Best Buddies chapter took their “Spread the Word to End the Word” campaign into the community by performing a “Best Buddies Flash Mob” at Bayshore Town Center. Around 30 members from Whitefish Bay took over the Rotunda and drew attention to themselves by performing a choreographed dance multiple times for interested on-lookers. Shoppers were able to visit tables with information about Best Buddies and the “Spread the Word to End the Word” campaign, as well as sign a pledge banner. See a picture of the flash mob.

Carroll University

On February 29, 2012, Carroll University Best Buddies invited guest speaker and Paralympics Gold Medalist Jason Regier to speak about believing in yourself and not underestimating others with disabilities. Jason spoke to a packed house of well over 100 students! It was an overwhelming success and great exposure for this new chapter and their mission. Check out a picture of Jason speaking to a packed house.

Cedarburg High School

The Cedarburg High School Best Buddies chapter promoted the campaign for an entire week at the beginning of March. At the awareness table, set up every day that week, students and staff were able to sign a banner, pledging to stop using the r-word. On Wednesday, every English class played a “Spread the Word to End the Word” video and discussed the importance of the campaign with their students. See a picture of Cedarburg’s pledge banner.

Oconomowoc High School

Oconomowoc High School Best Buddies Chapter members as well as faculty from the school created a PSA about Spread The Word To End The Word. The ten minute PSA focuses on treating people who have disabilities with respect as well as the mission of Best Buddies. The PSA was shown at the two local intermediate schools as well as on campus at Oconomowoc High School. To check out the Oconomowoc Best Buddies PSA.

Overall, more than 1,900 Best Buddies Wisconsin members asked their classmates, teachers, family, and community members to join them in this nationwide campaign in an effort to end the use of the r-word.

To learn more about the campaign, visit www.r-word.org, and to see pictures from all of our chapters’ events, check out our “Spread the Word to End the Word” album on Facebook.
Support our friendship programs in Wisconsin: DONATE or VOLUNTEER at Best Buddies today.


by JANINE MATHEE
Cedarburg High School
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I met Breanna when I was about seven years old and she was five. We lived in the same neighborhood and her older brother babysat for my family. I recently looked back at pictures from my childhood and smiled at one I found of my 7th birthday party, where Breanna was swinging at the piñata in my front yard.

Another one where we were together in a group showing off our Halloween costumes is another favorite. When we were younger, I don’t remember ever noticing anything different about Breanna, except that I knew she had a severe peanut allergy. But we were just neighbor kids; we all had a great time just goofing around and being kids.

Breanna’s family moved out of the neighborhood after a few years, but we still went to the same school for years. As we got older I started to notice that kids didn’t seem to treat Breanna like every other kid anymore.

She was in a wheelchair now and had been through several surgeries. I think the friendship I have formed with Breanna comes from the fact that my view of her didn’t change from when we were younger to now that we’re in high school. Just because she is in a wheelchair now doesn’t mean she isn’t still the sweet girl I knew as a kid.

Breanna and I have a real friendship, and it is incredibly important to me. We talk in the hallway every day, and we chat on the phone whenever we just feel like talking.

We eat lunch together at school, and we hang out at my house or go see movies, often with other buddy pairs, because Breanna loves to be around lots of friends.

Breanna and I have talked about me going to college next year, but I promised I will call her and keep in contact when I leave, because we have a lasting friendship, and I won’t ever forget that.

Cedarburg’s chapter members have a lot of opportunities to have fun this semester. For February’s event, a local craft studio brought magnet making kits to the school, and chapter members decorated their own Valentine’s Day magnets together.

The chapter also hosted an awareness table for Spread the Word to End the word, played a video about the campaign, and had students sign a pledge banner.

This spring the chapter will be participating in Best Buddies Wisconsin’s North Shore Friendship Walk, which will be held right in downtown Cedarburg on May 20, 2012 (www.bestbuddieswisconsin.org/northshore).


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


by MEREDITH DRESSEL
Workforce Development Area Director
Division of Vocational Rehabilitation
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In the United States, much of our culture is focused on employment and careers. For example, one of the first questions one asks someone they just met is, “What do you do for a living?” Unfortunately, many adults with disabilities do not have an answer to that question. According to the 2010 U.S. Census Bureau, over 75% of adults with disabilities are unemployed. Programs are being developed and implemented to address this issue with an increased focus on providing employment services to youth with disabilities.

Research has shown that the biggest indicator of employment success is exposure to paid work opportunities during high school. Currently the Wisconsin Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, the Department of Public Instruction and Department of Health Services have an agreement to improve communication, coordination, and services for students with disabilities transitioning from school to work.

It details the roles and responsibilities of each stakeholder, including youth and their parents, as the student transitions from school to employment and adult life.

All involved need to take specific steps to make this an efficient, effective and seamless process. These agencies are working together to increase the opportunities for paid employment during the high school years.

Best Buddies can also have a role in this important process. Appropriate social skills in the workplace are an essential part of maintaining employment. Through Best Buddies friendships and activities, youth with disabilities learn important social skills that are key to successful employment, such as personal boundaries, conversational skills and response to feedback.

The reasons an individual is terminated from employment are often not the performance of actual work tasks, but limited social and other soft skills. Therefore, it is important that these skills are learned early and reinforced often. Best Buddies is a great way to develop and enhance these employment and life skills.


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


by SPENCER BORNEMAN
Nicolet High School
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My name is Spencer Borneman, and I am a senior at Nicolet High School in Glendale, Wisconsin. I am a three-sport varsity athlete, and more importantly I am the president of the Best Buddies chapter at school. I have been a part of Best Buddies at Nicolet for four years, and have participated in a program like Best Buddies for eight years, dating back to middle school. Middle school is where I met my current buddy, and friend of three years, Roland.

I met Roland when he came to Bayside Middle School as a fifth grader. I was in sixth grade at the time, and was a part of a program called PALS. Every day after school, and some days during my study hall hour, I would go into the special education room and hang out with all the buddies. The buddy that I connected best with was Roland. Roland was extremely shy, very anti-social, and very quiet. He did not like people patting him on the back, giving him high fives, or hugging him at all. He was just the kind of person who kept to himself. No matter how shy and anti-social Roland was, I was determined to make him my new friend.

For three years straight I talked to Roland every day, and continued to grow closer to him. It wasn't until eighth grade when I could see the bond really starting to form. We hung out during school, after school, went on field trips together, and even had gym class together. I spent as much time as I could with Roland because I made his day, and he made mine. We created a friendship that was stronger than any friendship I had ever had. Unfortunately, eighth grade had to end, and that meant that I was off to high school, while Roland had one more year at Bayside.

My freshman year was very tough because of this. I signed up to be a part of Best Buddies at Nicolet, and eventually got named to be secretary of the chapter. I still had a fun year in Best Buddies, but sophomore year was when I truly started to get the full Best Buddies experience. Sophomore year I got paired with Roland during his freshman year, and it felt great to be reunited. We talked every day, we hung out during and after school, and we started talking on the phone quite often.

My favorite part of sophomore year occurred in October during lunch. I sat at a lunch table every day with all of my volleyball teammates. There are eight seats at each table, but we only filled seven. Roland was in my lunch, and every day he would come up to me halfway through lunch and say hello, and then he would return to his table. One day I thought to myself, “if we always have an extra seat, why don't I just invite him to sit here with us during lunch rather than him coming and going every day?”

So, the next day halfway through lunch, Roland came to the table to say hello. I told him he could sit down and spend the rest of the lunch hour at our table. The next day he did the same, and he sat at our table for the rest of the hour. At the end of that day I told Roland that he is always welcome to sit at our table for lunch. The next day, I walked into the cafeteria with three of my volleyball friends, and to our delight and surprise, we saw Roland already sitting there with a huge smile, waiting for us to arrive.

From there on out, Roland was there at that lunch table every day waiting for us to get there so he could begin eating his lunch. This was a turning point in my life, and a turning point in the bond between Roland and me. I had realized that just by letting a boy sit at our table in a seat that was never even occupied, I had made his year, and made him feel like he was included in the Nicolet student body. You could see it in his eyes and his smile that he felt on top of the world because he was sitting at a table with the Nicolet volleyball team.

Our friendship has continued to grow ever since. We have been buddies for three years at Nicolet, and six years total. Now-a-days, I receive daily notes from Roland that say things along the lines of, “Spencer Roland buddy, or “Spencer is special to me,” or “Spencer is always there for me.” I also get my daily share of Roland hugs in the hallway after classes, which have also carried over to the other buddies. Also, every day on my way into school I am greeted by Roland, who holds the door open for every Nicolet student until I arrive.

Amazingly, this is just what happens in school. Outside of school, Roland and I hang out and talk very often. Our favorite place to go is McDonalds. I slowly eat my food, and I attempt to talk to Roland as he devours his ten chicken nuggets before I get the chance to ask him how his day was. Other than McDonalds, Roland likes to come over to my house to play mini hockey, pool, football, basketball, baseball, and many other fun activities. On top of hanging out, I receive a phone call from Roland almost every day after school.

He asks me how my day was, and what I’m doing, and if I’ll see him tomorrow. Of course the answer is always the same; “My day was good, I’m doing homework, and of course I’ll see you tomorrow morning buddy.” No matter what, Roland always calls to make sure I’m doing well, doing my homework, and planning on seeing him tomorrow. I always follow up each phone call with a hug in school the next day.

I love Roland, and he loves me, and we have both significantly changed each other’s lives. The shy, anti-social, and quiet Roland that I used to know the day we met is a completely different person. Ever since Best Buddies brought him out of his shell, Roland is known by almost everybody in school. He is so social now and says hi to absolutely every student he passes in the hallways, greeting them with high fives and smiles. And to say the least, Roland is no longer a quiet kid.

Everyone knows when Roland is in the hallway and Nicolet students can’t help but to smile and wave at him as he runs down the hall, with a giant smile on his face, laughing, and brightening everyone’s day. Roland feels at home at Nicolet, and I believe the Best Buddies program is responsible for this. This inspiring program has not only changed my life and Roland’s, but the lives of the entire high school community.

Nicolet’s chapter has a lot of fun activities planned for the rest of the school year. In addition to a St. Patrick’s Day party, a bowling outing, and an end of the year picnic, Nicolet chapter members will be participating in the Best Buddies Wisconsin Downtown Friendship Walk on April 21, 2012 (www.bestbuddieswisconsin.org/downtown).


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


by KAYLA KEY
Kettle Moraine High School
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Two years ago, I joined Best Buddies as an associate member at Kettle Moraine High School. Today, I am the vice president of my chapter. Then, I did not know a single person with a disability, or their story. Now, I know each one on a personal level and could probably tell you what he or she got for Christmas. I knew then that my heart had a spot for Best Buddies and I know now that I need to share this passion with others.

Halfway through last year I was offered the chance to be a Friendship Walk Captain for our chapter. To be honest, I was hesitant to begin this new leadership position because I was so new to the chapter and to the members. I began to take on this role and realized, then, my true potential to be a leader in this program. Our Friendship Walk team was a huge success last year and that is when I decided I had more to give to our chapter.

I applied as the Vice-President and was told I would be attending Leadership Conference over summer. Logistically, I knew the requirements my position held going into Leadership Conference, but I was unaware of the gifts that this leadership role had in return. In Indiana, I had the opportunity to put a solid foundation to my beliefs that I already had towards Best Buddies.

In these few days, I met and befriended so many heartfelt people, became close to my amazing fellow officers, and fell in love with the mission of Best Buddies. I honestly wish I could go back with all my new friends and do it again. It is a powerful experience that I wish all officers could go to because I left Indiana with the motivation to make sure our chapter was successful.

I would say that, indeed, our chapter at Kettle Moraine High School has been successful. It has been truly rewarding to lead our chapter this year. I have enjoyed watching honest friendships bloom and creating a new one of my own. My friend, Warren, and I have had a wonderful time this year hanging out, going to movies, and attending our chapter’s parties.

It’s going to be a sad day when I have to leave all my new friends from this year and move on to college. However, I am looking forward to being a new member at a college chapter next year and exploring the possibilities of leadership roles there.

This organization has created a lifelong passion for me that I will continue to advocate for. I feel very blessed to have all these new friends who have impacted me more than they will ever know. Thanks Best Buddies Wisconsin for all of these wonderful opportunities!


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


by CHELSEA HREN
Best Buddies Wisconsin
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As first semester comes to a close, Best Buddies Wisconsin has taken a moment to reflect on our chapter’s successes during the first few months of the 2011-2012 school year.

To date, over 2,000 students have volunteered their time in one of our 30 chapters. From this large membership, almost 500 matches have been made and given opportunities to build their friendship, with support from chapter leaders, unmatched chapter members, and school administrations.

Get to Know You Parties

To start off the year, chapters held “Get to Know You Parties” where chapter members came together to meet each other, socialize, and get a feel for who they paired up with well. Many of our chapters planned these parties around their school’s Homecoming festivities, which gave members the chance to participate in a school event, as well as promote the Best Buddies mission throughout their community. To read more about different Homecoming “Get to Know You Parties,” and to see pictures from a few of these events, click HERE.

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Match Parties

After chapter members met each other, anyone interested in being paired with a student with an intellectual or developmental disability (IDD) was interviewed by chapter officers. The officers then worked with their chapter’s advisors to match each student based off of their interests, personalities, interviews, and preferences. Chapters then hosted “Match Parties” for members and their parents. At these parties, matches were revealed, and parents heard from Best Buddies Wisconsin staff. To read more about various “Match Parties,” and to see pictures, please click HERE.

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Monthly Activities

Once matches are made, the chapter strives to provide each match with monthly activities where matches can build their friendship, and other chapter members can socialize with the entire group. Student officers and advisors meet on a monthly basis to plan these activities, and work hard to ensure each member and their parents know about upcoming events. Sometimes the activities are held in-school, while others are planned in the chapter’s community. To read more about some of the activities our chapters planned during their first semester, and to see pictures, please click HERE.

Now that each chapter’s first semester is complete, matches have had a few months to build their friendship, and chapter leaders are experienced at leading the chapter and planning activities. Best Buddies Wisconsin looks forward to seeing what our chapters have planned for their spring semester, and knows that each chapter will finish off the school year with strong matches, and many memories.

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Spread the Word to End the Word Day (March 7, 2012)

In addition to chapter activities, Best Buddies Wisconsin members will have the chance to partake in many state-wide initiatives. On March 7, 2012, each chapter will be participating in the Spread the Word to End the Word campaign. This campaign’s goal is to end the use of the derogatory word, retarded (r-word). Chapters are asked to promote this campaign throughout their school and community, in any way they chose. Last year, chapters planned a variety of activities from pledge banner signings, short informational speeches given in classrooms, video announcements, and all-school assemblies. Chapters have already begun planning for this year’s campaign, and hope to build off the campaigns success last year. To learn more about the Spread the Word to End the Word campaign, please vist www.r-word.org

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Best Buddies Wisconsin All-Chapter Dance (March 10, 2012)

On March 10, 2012, the Best Buddies Wisconsin office will be hosting our Annual All Chapter Dance. This dance is open to all chapter members and their families, and is a great way for members to meet members from other chapters. Last year, over 250 members and parents attended our dance, and we hope the number increases this year. With a red carpet theme, this event gives chapter members a chance to dance in style, with photo opportunities, decorations, and delicious snacks. For those members who choose not to dance, a quieter room is available to socialize and play games. Parents will once again be invited to hang out in the V.I.P. room. Check out pictures from last year’s dance on our Facebook page HERE.

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Best Buddies Friendship Walk

As the weather warms up, Best Buddies Wisconsin will be hosting three different Friendship Walks. Last year, over 350 people participated in our inaugural Friendship Walk, held in downtown Milwaukee. This year, we decided to expand our walk so our outlying chapters and communities can participate more easily. Because of this, there will be three Friendship Walks chapter members, their families, friends, coworkers, and other community members can attend. Our goal is to increase the number of walkers each year at each location.

Each chapter has a designated student team captain who formed a team for their school and community. Anyone is invited to join one of the chapters’ teams, or form a team of their own. These walks are a great way to raise funds for Best Buddies and spread our mission throughout each community.

This year, our first walk will be in downtown Milwaukee on April 21, 2012 from 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Our second walk is at Lapham Peak on May 19, 2012 from 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. The final Friendship Walk will be our North Shore walk, which will be held in historic Cedarburg on May 20, 2012 from 1:00-3:00 p.m. For more information or to join a walk, please visit bestbuddieswisconsin.org/walk

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All-Chapter Brewer Game and Tailgate

Lastly, Best Buddies Wisconsin will once again be hosting an All Chapter Brewer Game and Tailgate. Each year, the Brewers Community Foundation donates tickets to one of their games so that chapter members and their families have the chance to attend a Brewers game. Last year, 500 members and their parents attended this fun, end of the year event. The exact date has not been chosen yet, so stay tuned for more details as baseball season approaches. To see pictures from last year’s end of the year tailgate and Brewer game, visit our Facebook page HERE.

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As one can see, many great things have happened in Best Buddies so far this year, with many more to come. Second semester is a busy time for students, however being a part of Best Buddies gives them the chance to do something that some of their peers are not – make a difference in an individual’s life. Best Buddies Wisconsin is very grateful for all the wonderful students our staff has had the chance to work with this year. We look forward to an action packed second semester!
Support our friendship programs in Wisconsin: DONATE or VOLUNTEER at Best Buddies today.


by BRITTANY HAWLEY
Nathan Hale High School
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Brittany and Kelly get started on pumpkin carving
This year, I was chosen to be president of the Nathan Hale High School chapter. I have been friends with Kelly since last year and this year I had the opportunity to be matched with her.

I was excited because we had so much in common and she was a really great friend! When I was told I had to choose a buddy director, I thought of Kelly because she is always so happy and gets along with everyone.

Kelly is an amazing Buddy Director. Her role includes passing out papers at all of our meetings and helping to plan events. But that is not all she does, Kelly also contributes her thoughts to help the chapter succeed and makes sure that her friends are having as much fun as possible.

As chapter president, I work with the officers to plan monthly events for the chapter to participate in. I also create fun things for the associate members to do so they don’t feel left out because they don’t have a buddy. One of those activities is letter buddies. I got the idea while at the Leadership Conference.

The associate members write letters to people with disabilities in our school who are not able to participate in Best Buddies. Because there are not a lot of people with disabilities in our school and there are so many associate members, I took it a step farther. I reached out to students in the elementary schools who have disabilities and included them in letters buddies.

Hopefully as those students get older, they feel like they belong more because they had someone in high school write to them and hopefully help them feel included. Letter buddies has to be my all-time favorite thing that we have done so far this year.

There have been a lot of great things that has happened to the Nathan Hale chapter this year. We recruited many new members and our chapter now has over 40 people in it. We have had some fun chapter events including carving pumpkins, decorating cookies and watching the Grinch.

We also decorated ornaments and hung them on a Christmas tree. The Christmas tree was for the main office at school and was placed in the window for everyone to see! Kelly said her favorite event was watching Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel. I would have to say my favorite event was carving pumpkins, or decorating Christmas cookies.

Earlier this year Kelly and I had the opportunity to attend the Miss Wisconsin pageant and talk to contestants about Best Buddies. Some of the other fun things we have done together include going the mall, going out to eat and playing Wii together.

I like being friends with Kelly for many reasons. She is such a happy and energetic person to be around. Not only does Kelly always say hi to me in the hallway, but she says hi to anyone she knows. She is so supportive of me and everything I do. Kelly and I have a wonderful friendship. She says that our friendship is great, and loves when we hang out together.

I would have to agree with her! Kelly said she likes being friends with me because I am nice and fun to be around. She also told me that she likes that I am supportive of her disability, and all the sports and activities that she participates in.

Kelly really inspires me; she doesn’t let having a disability stand in her way. I was so excited for her earlier this year when she was elected Homecoming Princess for our high school!

To me, Best Buddies means that you give opportunities to chapter members to build strong friendships with not only their buddy, but the other buddies and members in Best Buddies.

I feel that Best Buddies is changing lives for people with, and without disabilities because it provides opportunities to create lifelong friendships, leadership skills, and character building. I’m really glad I have had the opportunity to become friends with Kelly and everyone else in Best Buddies!
Support our friendship programs in Wisconsin: DONATE or VOLUNTEER at Best Buddies today.


by JAMIE KUJAWSKI & CHELSEA ROSKA
Best Buddies Wisconsin
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Going to a school such as Arrowhead with over 2000 students present, one would think that it would be a piece of cake to get people involved in such a rewarding club as Best Buddies. In previous years, that has not been the case.

With a usual turnout of around 20 to 25 people in the past, we received minimal, but dedicated and hard working additions to our Best Buddies chapter at Arrowhead High School.

However, things took a drastic turn for the better this year when over 100 people were in attendance at our match party, which took place in October. As an officer, there was no doubt that the stress was at an all time high.

With such excess chaos, it was difficult to get a hold of everyone’s attention amidst the side conversations and budding new friendships. However, when we were able to, it was all about organization. Surveys and handouts would only go so far.

It was our ability to articulate and emphasize not only the importance of this club from a basic standpoint, but also the emotional effect it can have on everyone in the club.

Best Buddies is such an empowering and life changing idea that has now and forever changed the way that not only Arrowhead, but also high schools and colleges around the world feel about what friendship really means.

Written by Jamie Kujawski

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As the vice president of the Arrowhead chapter, Jamie joined Kaitlyn, Arrowhead’s chapter president, on a four day trip to the Best Buddies 22nd Annual Leadership Conference in Indiana this past summer.

At this conference, the two students learned the skills needed to organize and run a successful chapter. Jamie and Kaitlyn participated in individualized trainings, inspirational events, and state meetings that helped the students develop leadership skills to bring back to their chapter, school, and community in an effort to bring about social change and promote inclusion.

Jamie and Kaitlyn were able to put this training to use the second they returned to Wisconsin. Before school even started the two of them, along with the rest of their officer corps, discussed and planned everything that needed to be done to ensure a smooth start to the year.

They planned ways to recruit new members, developed committees that would help keep associate members (un-matched students) involved, and organized a calendar for the entire school year complete with meeting and activity dates.

When the chapter’s advisors and Best Buddies program manager met with the officers in August to plan the year, they were thrilled to see that most of the planning had already been completed.

The early planning done by the officers helped with the overall organization of the chapter, which everyone quickly realized was important when over 100 people attended the chapter’s first activity and expressed interest in the organization.

Nineteen matches were able to be made, leaving over 50 students without a match. This did not bother the officers, however, because they had already planned committees for these un-matched students to be involved in. Associate members were able to sign up to be a “Lunch Buddy,” and a “Letter Buddy.”

As a lunch buddy an associate member is assigned to a buddy, and the two of them eat lunch together at least once a week. Letter buddies have a buddy that they exchange letters with on a weekly basis.

These committees have a couple of benefits – Associate members feel involved in the chapter even though they aren’t matched one-to-one, and each buddy in Arrowhead’s chapter has a peer buddy, lunch buddy, and letter buddy giving them the opportunity to socialize with multiple students and get to know more members of the chapter.

Lunch buddies and letter buddies are held accountable for staying involved and are expected to report to Jamie how many times they ate with or wrote their buddies monthly.

So far this year, the committees have been successful in keeping associate members involved, and Arrowhead has had huge attendance at all of their events including buddy pairs and associate members.

Keeping a chapter this large organized and involved can only be done with excellent student leaders. Jamie and Kaitlyn have shown their leadership skills this year, and have done a great job ensuring Arrowhead’s chapter will be successful for years to come.

Written by Chelsea Roska, Lead Program Manager
Support our friendship programs in Wisconsin: DONATE or VOLUNTEER at Best Buddies today.


by RACHEL KONETZKE
Best Buddies Wisconsin
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The Best Buddies Wisconsin chapter at Silver Lake Intermediate School is in its second year and has hit its groove. It is one of only two middle school chapters in the state of Wisconsin.

The chapter has grown to 32 members and 8 buddy pairs. Silver Lake owes much of its success to the dedication of its two advisors, Patrick Middleton and Megan Herbst. Here is what they had to say:

"Establishing a Best Buddies program here at Silver Lake Intermediate has been a “learn as you go” process. We’ve had great support from Rachel throughout and the response from the students of Silver Lake has been amazing! Our Peer Buddies range from 4th grade on up to 8th grade and the kids have really taken ownership of the club.

"All of the kids have shown initiative as far as making time to be with their buddies and we’ve noticed that a lot of other kids have become aware of Best Buddies because their friends are involved. The staff has been very supportive in allowing our Buddies to come along as swim helpers and other activities like our Christmas shopping trip.

"Best Buddies is a great program for fostering diversity with all students as well as encouraging compassion and acceptance. We all can learn from each other and the Best Buddies program allows students that chance."

The chapter hosts monthly chapter meetings and events where buddy pairs and associate members have the opportunity to participate in fun activities together such as making turkey shaped cookies in November or taking a field trip to the mall for some holiday shopping in December.

At a recent chapter event I was able to talk with a handful of buddy pairs and get their perspective on why they like being in Best Buddies.

“I like being in Best Buddies because it is a great way to spend extra lunch time or just any other time you have with someone. Because then I can do stuff so I am not lonely all the time. My buddy is a great partner to talk with and so that makes him a great buddy to be with.”

“Best Buddies is a way to meet new friends that you really would not see in school, I like my buddy because she is always fun to be around and she likes to laugh a lot and make funny jokes.”

“I like that I get to hang out with kids in special education. It means a lot to me, we seem to have a special connection that I really enjoy.”

“My mom got me interested a year ago, I like making new friends and I wanted to meet kids that I have not met before and get new experiences. I think being in Best Buddies not only helps the buddies but it helps me, they get a friend and I get another friend and I can introduce them to other people too.”

The impact Best Buddies is beginning to make at Silver Lake is evident. When the chapter gets together, laughter and conversation can be heard from one end of the hallway to the other.

The buddy pairs seem to have formed natural friendships that are now fostered through Best Buddies. They seek each other out in the hallways to say hello, play at recess, eat lunch and some have gotten together outside of school for sleepovers and shopping trips.

Most students within the chapter will graduate and move onto Oconomowoc High School, where they will again have the opportunity to be a part of Best Buddies. We have seen our first group of Silver Lake chapter members join the high school chapter this year and Marisa who was Silver Lake’s chapter president last year was even selected as the treasurer for Oconomowoc’s chapter this year.

Middle school can be rough but Best Buddies gives students the chance to be themselves and form friendships with peers they might not normally have a chance to meet.

I think by having a chapter in both the middle school and high school in Oconomowoc , it eases the transition for both the students with and without disabilities that participate in Best Buddies.

Written by Rachel Konetzke, Lead Program Manager

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


by JANINE MATHEE
Best Buddies Wisconsin
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I met Breanna when I was about seven years old and she was five. We lived in the same neighborhood and her older brother babysat for my family. I recently looked back at pictures from my childhood and smiled at one I found of my 7th birthday party, where Breanna was swinging at the piñata in my front yard.

Another one where we were together in a group showing off our Halloween costumes is another favorite. When we were younger, I don’t remember ever noticing anything different about Breanna, except that I knew she had a severe peanut allergy. But we were just neighbor kids; we all had a great time just goofing around and being kids.

Breanna’s family moved out of the neighborhood after a few years, but we still went to the same school for years. As we got older I started to notice that kids didn’t seem to treat Breanna like every other kid anymore.

She was in a wheelchair now and had been through several surgeries. I think the friendship I have formed with Breanna comes from the fact that my view of her didn’t change from when we were younger to now that we’re in high school. Just because she is in a wheelchair now doesn’t mean she isn’t still the sweet girl I knew as a kid.

Breanna and I have a real friendship, and it is incredibly important to me. We talk in the hallway every day, and we chat on the phone whenever we just feel like talking.

We eat lunch together at school, and we hang out at my house or go see movies, often with other buddy pairs, because Breanna loves to be around lots of friends.

Breanna and I have talked about me going to college next year, but I promised I will call her and keep in contact when I leave, because we have a lasting friendship, and I won’t ever forget that.

Written by Janine Mathee
Support our friendship programs in Wisconsin: DONATE or VOLUNTEER at Best Buddies today.


by MALEAH BRODY & RACHEL KONETZKE
Best Buddies Wisconsin
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Best Buddies means the world to both of us. Its a time where we can get together and have fun! We are able to meet new people and make a ton of new friends. You are able to build a strong one-to-one friendship with a person with intellectual and developmental disabilities, which can change a life.

My sister Miranda who was a buddy in the Franklin chapter last year and now attends Shepherds College loved being included for once, having a buddy, or someone to pay attention to her, just like anyone else would. Its a great program that doesnt come with many challenges, just a friendship that can last a lifetime.

Over the past couple of months that Natalie and I have been buddies we have had a lot of fun! We went to Southridge mall to shop and play a round of miniature glow golf with another buddy pair (Amana and Kendra).

During the month of October, we also painted pumpkins and worked the joke booth at the Harvest Fest that took place at our school. For the beginning of December we had an early Christmas party with the rest of the Franklin chapter.

At the party we traded gifts, had a lot of yummy snacks, and also participated in some group activities. Later on we plan to go to a wrestling tournament to cheer on our team. As you can see there are a ton of fun and exciting activities to do with your buddy throughout the year!

Written by Maleah Brody

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The Best Buddies Chapter at Franklin High school sent two chapter officers, including Maleah, to the Annual Best Buddies Leadership Conference in Indiana this past summer.

She has shown vast leadership within her chapter helping out with anything that needs to be done; going above and beyond her duties as treasurer. What I believe is most important, though, is that Maleah and Natalie seem to have formed a true friendship.

Maleah is only a sophomore this year and already has become a role model for fellow chapter members. Through Maleahs hard work and the hard work of all the officers at Franklin High School, the chapter has grown to 12 buddy pairs and 50 members.

Natalie is also a shining star in the Franklin Chapter; she is the buddy director this year. Natalie is always seen with a big smile on her face talking and joking around with all of the chapter members.

She contributes at the officer meetings and helps out where she can at chapter events. Maleah and Natalie are great examples of what Best Buddies is all about.

Written by Rachel Konetzke, Lead Program Manager
Support our friendship programs in Wisconsin: DONATE or VOLUNTEER at Best Buddies today.


by EHREN DEI
Best Buddies Wisconsin
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My name is Ehren Dei and I’m the Associate College Buddy Director in the Best Buddies chapter at UW-Milwaukee. I first joined Best Buddies last year as a college buddy and grew to love the organization and everyone in it so I decided to return for another year and step it up a notch.

My oldest brother Justin was born with Cerebral Palsy so growing up I personally saw how he didn’t have many friends from school to hang out or go do things with. When I heard about the organization I was excited to join and build a friendship with someone in the area knowing how my brother didn’t have the same opportunity when we were growing up.

I was matched with Josh Merrick who is one of the nicest, funniest, and silliest individuals I have come across since attending school here at UWM. Whether we’re out shopping or just hanging out at my apartment he always seems to find a way to crack me up.

So far, this year has been nothing but fun for everyone involved. We started this semester off strong with our annual Bowling Party in the UWM union. Our chapter is relatively new, founded in 2009, but this year we are happy to say that we welcomed back returning members and also gained some new faces; leaving us with an exciting total of 57 members, 22 buddy matches, five associate college buddies, and two associate buddy members.

Our board of directors is composed of an all-star team this year, including April Seiberlich as our College Buddy Director, Joy Kenney as our Buddy Director, Samantha Bear as our Membership Coordinator, Ellen Blaser as our Activities Coordinator, Jackie Ksobiech as our Creative Director, and myself as the Associate College Buddy Director.

It is refreshing to see a group of individuals so passionate about the organization and see how willing they are to make sure our chapter has something fun to partake in each month.

This year we decided to change things up a bit and get associate members more involved when it comes to our monthly happenings. For our November event each associate was given the responsibility to think of an activity to lead.

We all met at our Easter Seals buddy-site and had a blast crafting our hearts out for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday. It’s always such a joy to see how all the buddies and college buddies interact with one another and to see such a collaborative effort on everyone’s part to make each event an experience everyone can enjoy.

We just recently had an officer meeting where we sat down and discussed how things were going and planned the activities that will be coming up over the next few months. We took the time to bounce ideas off one another and came to an agreement for our December and January events.

Our December event will include meeting up at Mayfair to see a movie and do some holiday shopping, and for January we’re planning on going to see a play together at the First Stage Theater here in Milwaukee, once everyone returns from winter break. We’ve all made the pledge to make this year the best one yet and can’t wait to see everyone at the events we have coming up!
Support our friendship programs in Wisconsin: DONATE or VOLUNTEER at Best Buddies today.


by CHELSEA ROSKA
Best Buddies Wisconsin
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As the days get shorter and the air gets colder, Best Buddies Wisconsin chapters prepare to head into their winter months. Before we say good-bye to fall, Best Buddies Wisconsin would like to highlight the many accomplishments our chapters achieved as the 2011-2012 school year got under way.

The fall months are an eventful time for chapters and their student leaders and advisors. As one Special Education Advisor points out, “the beginning of each school year brings a renewed sense of purpose for me and our Best Buddies chapter.” This enthusiasm motivates chapter leaders to ensure their chapter starts off strong, which in turn leads to a successful year.

To date, over 1,900 students have signed up to participate in a Best Buddies Wisconsin chapter. This number is almost 200 more chapter members than we had at the end of the 2010-2011 school year! The large amount of members this year can be attributed not only to each chapter’s aggressive recruiting, but also to the fact that Best Buddies Wisconsin’s mission is spreading throughout our schools and into communities.

Once chapters recruited a group of dedicated members, “Get to Know You Parties” were planned so that new and returning members could meet each other and see who they matched up well with. Fifteen of our chapters planned these parties around their school’s Homecoming celebrations.

Many chapters walked in their parade holding home-made “Best Buddies” signs and handed out candy with messages about Best Buddies and our mission tied to each piece. Other chapters decorated posters that were hung around school, painted a local business’s window, and attended the school’s bonfire.

One school even nominated their chapter’s Buddy Director as Homecoming Princess! Joining in on the Homecoming festivities not only gave members a chance to get to know one another, but also allowed chapter members to partake in activities they may not have participated in the past.

“So many people with special needs spend their lives on the sidelines and never get asked to participate because they are "different". However…when the college students were walking with their "buddies" in the (Homecoming) parade, I could tell each person felt like they fit in, that they belonged there and that they were just as much a part of the celebration as everyone else.” - A statement from the mother of a college member with an intellectual or developmental disability captures the affect Best Buddies has on everyone involved in the organization.

After “Get to Know You Parties” and Homecoming celebrations were complete, and student officers had interviewed anyone interested in being matched, chapter leaders met to make matches they hope will lead to life-long friendships. To date over 450 matches have been made throughout Best Buddies Wisconsin chapters.

These matches were revealed at “Match Parties” where chapter members spent time getting to know their new buddy, ate snacks, and participated in planned activities such as crafts, board games, scavenger hunts, and ice breakers. New this year, Best Buddies Wisconsin asked each chapter to invite parents to their match parties.

Over 200 parents attended their chapter’s match party where they learned about the Best Buddies program, upcoming state-wide events, how to get involved, ways to support their student in their friendship, and, most importantly, had the chance to meet their student’s match. “This is how it is supposed to work,” said one parent who attended a successful match party.

She appreciated the fact that the student officers took the lead at the event, that staff members took time to meet with parents, and that she had the chance to meet her son’s new friend. “We typically observe that matches with support from their parents tend to thrive and grow into successful friendships.

That’s why we encouraged chapters to invite parents to match parties, and encouraged parents to get involved with their chapter and Best Buddies Wisconsin. We are already seeing the positive results this year,” explained Teri Bromberek, Best Buddies Wisconsin Program Supervisor. This is an approach Best Buddies Wisconsin hopes to build on each year.

By the time mid-October came around, the majority of our chapters had hosted their match parties and were ready to partake in chapter activities. Many of the first few activities were planned around a fall theme. In October, some chapters hosted Halloween parties which members attended in costume and carved or decorated pumpkins, broke Halloween piñatas, and ate Halloween-themed treats.

Other chapters visited pumpkin farms, corn mazes, or fall festivals. One chapter hosted a Halloween dance, while another went trick-or-treating for the hungry and collected canned goods for a local food pantry. November activities centered around Thanksgiving, football, and fall plays. Some chapters planned a pot-luck Thanksgiving get-together, some made turkeys out of crafts, and a few watched Thanksgiving-themed movies.

Other chapters decided to attend their school’s fall play together or gather at a member’s house to cheer on the Packers. No matter what each chapter planned, members were given fun opportunities to get to know their matches in a group setting.

“Planning activities for chapter members is an important part of Best Buddies, especially at the beginning of the year when matches are first getting to know each other. Not only do these activities give members the chance to build their friendships while in a social setting, they also bring Best Buddies into the community and give members the opportunity to participate in an activity they may otherwise be excluded from,” states Bromberek.

Chapters are required to plan at least one activity per month where members gather and spend time together.

Now that we are three months into the 2011-2012 school year, it is obvious that each one of Best Buddies Wisconsin’s 30 chapters is going to have a terrific year. The chapter leaders at each school are committed to making their chapter excel, and have shown this in how well they prepared their chapters for success during the busy first few months of the school year.

As an ever-growing organization, Best Buddies Wisconsin relies on its almost 2,000 dedicated student volunteers to carry out our mission. Each member plays a pivotal role in changing how people with intellectual or developmental disabilities are viewed in our society, and have committed to promoting inclusion throughout their school and community.

For this, the Best Buddies Wisconsin staff thanks each and every one of the students, faculty members, and parents involved in Best Buddies this year. Keep up the great work!
Support our friendship programs in Wisconsin: DONATE or VOLUNTEER at Best Buddies today.


by SPENCER BORNEMAN
Best Buddies Wisconsin
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My name is Spencer Borneman, and I am a senior at Nicolet High School in Glendale, Wisconsin. I am a three-sport varsity athlete, and more importantly I am the president of the Best Buddies chapter at school.

I have been a part of Best Buddies at Nicolet for four years, and have participated in a program like Best Buddies for eight years, dating back to middle school. Middle school is where I met my current buddy, and friend of three years, Roland.

I met Roland when he came to Bayside Middle School as a fifth grader. I was in sixth grade at the time, and was a part of a program called PALS. Every day after school, and some days during my study hall hour, I would go into the special education room and hang out with all the buddies.

The buddy that I connected best with was Roland. Roland was extremely shy, very anti-social, and very quiet. He did not like people patting him on the back, giving him high fives, or hugging him at all. He was just the kind of person who kept to himself. No matter how shy and anti-social Roland was, I was determined to make him my new friend.

For three years straight I talked to Roland every day, and continued to grow closer to him. It wasn't until eighth grade when I could see the bond really starting to form. We hung out during school, after school, went on field trips together, and even had gym class together.

I spent as much time as I could with Roland because I made his day, and he made mine. We created a friendship that was stronger than any friendship I had ever had. Unfortunately, eighth grade had to end, and that meant that I was off to high school, while Roland had one more year at Bayside.

My freshman year was very tough because of this. I signed up to be a part of Best Buddies at Nicolet, and eventually got named to be secretary of the chapter. I still had a fun year in Best Buddies, but sophomore year was when I truly started to get the full Best Buddies experience.

Sophomore year I got paired with Roland during his freshman year, and it felt great to be reunited. We talked every day, we hung out during and after school, and we started talking on the phone quite often.

My favorite part of sophomore year occurred in October during lunch. I sat at a lunch table every day with all of my volleyball teammates. There are eight seats at each table, but we only filled seven.

Roland was in my lunch, and every day he would come up to me halfway through lunch and say hello, and then he would return to his table. One day I thought to myself, “if we always have an extra seat, why don't I just invite him to sit here with us during lunch rather than him coming and going every day?”

So, the next day halfway through lunch, Roland came to the table to say hello. I told him he could sit down and spend the rest of the lunch hour at our table. The next day he did the same, and he sat at our table for the rest of the hour.

At the end of that day I told Roland that he is always welcome to sit at our table for lunch. The next day, I walked into the cafeteria with three of my volleyball friends, and to our delight and surprise, we saw Roland already sitting there with a huge smile, waiting for us to arrive.

From there on out, Roland was there at that lunch table every day waiting for us to get there so he could begin eating his lunch. This was a turning point in my life, and a turning point in the bond between Roland and me.

I had realized that just by letting a boy sit at our table in a seat that was never even occupied, I had made his year, and made him feel like he was included in the Nicolet student body. You could see it in his eyes and his smile that he felt on top of the world because he was sitting at a table with the Nicolet volleyball team.

Our friendship has continued to grow ever since. We have been buddies for three years at Nicolet, and six years total. Now-a-days, I receive daily notes from Roland that say things along the lines of, “Spencer Roland buddy, or “Spencer is special to me,” or “Spencer is always there for me.”

I also get my daily share of Roland hugs in the hallway after classes, which have also carried over to the other buddies. Also, every day on my way into school I am greeted by Roland, who holds the door open for every Nicolet student until I arrive.

Amazingly, this is just what happens in school. Outside of school, Roland and I hang out and talk very often. Our favorite place to go is McDonalds. I slowly eat my food, and I attempt to talk to Roland as he devours his ten chicken nuggets before I get the chance to ask him how his day was.

Other than McDonalds, Roland likes to come over to my house to play mini hockey, pool, football, basketball, baseball, and many other fun activities. On top of hanging out, I receive a phone call from Roland almost every day after school. He asks me how my day was, and what I’m doing, and if I’ll see him tomorrow.

Of course the answer is always the same; “My day was good, I’m doing homework, and of course I’ll see you tomorrow morning buddy.” No matter what, Roland always calls to make sure I’m doing well, doing my homework, and planning on seeing him tomorrow. I always follow up each phone call with a hug in school the next day.

I love Roland, and he loves me, and we have both significantly changed each other’s lives. The shy, anti-social, and quiet Roland that I used to know the day we met is a completely different person. Ever since Best Buddies brought him out of his shell, Roland is known by almost everybody in school. He is so social now and says hi to absolutely every student he passes in the hallways, greeting them with high fives and smiles.

And to say the least, Roland is no longer a quiet kid. Everyone knows when Roland is in the hallway and Nicolet students can’t help but to smile and wave at him as he runs down the hall, with a giant smile on his face, laughing, and brightening everyone’s day. Roland feels at home at Nicolet, and I believe the Best Buddies program is responsible for this. This inspiring program has not only changed my life and Roland’s, but the lives of the entire high school community.
Support our friendship programs in Wisconsin: DONATE or VOLUNTEER at Best Buddies today.


by ROBIN O'DONNELL
Best Buddies Wisconsin Parent
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I have the pleasure of having two terrific daughters that have dedicated some of their high school time as officers for Port Washington’s Best Buddies program. I could not be more proud of each of them.

Even before they joined Best Buddies, they had always felt passionate that everyone should have a friend. Both of my daughters love spending time with their buddies, and hope they make a difference in their lives. Their buddies have definitely made a difference in my daughters’ lives.

My oldest daughter, Jessica, was Vice President as a senior; and spent much of her time planning activities and running meetings along with spending time with her buddy. Their favorite things to do were to get lunch, watch movies, and just hang out and talk.

Jessica is now a freshman at Drake University and has joined the Best Buddies program there. She has just met her buddy and they have hit if off already. Jessica is so excited to be able to continue with this program at the college level and to continue the friendships that will come from the program.

My other daughter, Courtney, is President this year as a junior. She has already spent time making matches with peer buddies and buddies. Courtney also started planning activities and meetings for this year. She is so excited to get the new year started and to spend one on one time with her buddy.

Courtney is also an activist for the "R" word campaign and is now thinking of majoring in special education.

Best Buddies is a wonderful organization, and I could not be happier that my daughters have spent so much time trying to make a difference in other students’ lives at school and outside of the school setting.

I believe Best Buddies has also had a positive impact in my daughters’ lives. They both cherish the new friendships they have made.
Support our friendship programs in Wisconsin: DONATE or VOLUNTEER at Best Buddies today.


by TERI BROMBEREK
Best Buddies Wisconsin
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As summer wound down and the start of the school year kicked into gear, Best Buddies Wisconsin was busy throughout communities around southeastern Wisconsin. Highlighted in this article are a few of the activities our students and staff participated in.

At the end of the summer one of our graduates of the Best Buddies Wisconsin program, Kristen Van Handel, hosted a tour of ManpowerGroup headquarters in Milwaukee, WI.

Kristen held an internship at ManpowerGroup where she learned all there is to know about the company, led tours of the facilities, and welcomed people every day at the front desk.

To wrap up her internship, Kristen invited her fellow Wisconsin Buddies to come on a tour and hear about what it’s like to have a job with a Fortune 500 company. Our Buddies that attended the tour were impressed and inspired by seeing someone with a disability accomplish what Kristen had over the summer.

In early fall, in the midst of recruitment, officer meetings, organizational meetings, and get to know you parties, a few Wisconsin students took time to attend the Miss Wisconsin USA and Miss Teen Wisconsin USA pageant.

On Friday night, one Buddy pair helped out with registration, welcomed all of the contestants and their families, and had a chance to teach them about Best Buddies Wisconsin.

On Sunday, two lucky Buddies had the chance to escort the lovely ladies across the stage for the evening gown competition. This weekend of awareness and fun was capped off with the announcement that the pageant’s fundraising efforts had raised $1,100 for Best Buddies Wisconsin.

Individual chapters have gotten in on the early school year fun as well. Many of our Wisconsin high school chapters have a long-standing tradition of marching in their homecoming parade. Buddy pairs have a great time dressing up in their school colors, proudly holding the Best Buddies flag, and waving at the crowds.

This has become a great kick-off event for many of our schools and is a great way for buddies to spend time together and recruit more members!

Stayed tuned as we highlight Best Buddies Wisconsin and our chapters’ events throughout the year!
Support our friendship programs in Wisconsin: DONATE or VOLUNTEER at Best Buddies today.


by RAQUEL THORSEN
Oak Creek HS Special Education Advisor
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My name is Raquel Thorsen and I first heard about Best Buddies back in 2005. My first thought was that we needed a chapter at my high school, so in 2006 I contacted Best Buddies Wisconsin and we were lucky enough to get to start a chapter at Oak Creek High School.

Being the special education advisor for this club has been one of the best experiences ever! I have gotten to meet so many wonderful students, not to mention great parents and Best Buddies Wisconsin program personnel. This is the sixth year for our Best Buddies chapter at Oak Creek High School and it just keeps getting bigger and better.

The beginning of this school year has been super busy. We’ve had over 100 students apply online to be part of our chapter. It’s wonderful that so many people want to be involved. We have started off the year with a bang—having our Sprecher Root Beer Float fundraiser; our Matching Party at the Milwaukee County Zoo and a Parent Night Potluck dinner which had a great turnout.

We have 23 buddy pairs who are looking forward to a fun-filled year. So far we are planning a Karaoke Party in November and a Holiday bowling party in December where Santa usually pays us a visit to deliver each buddy a present. We will also be doing a Stone Creek Coffee fundraiser just in time for holiday gift giving.

The beginning of each school year brings a renewed sense of purpose for me and our Best Buddies chapter.

I feel so lucky to be part of such a wonderful organization. Every day I get to work with students who really care about others and want to make a difference.

Every day I get to witness acts of kindness and see friendships that most likely would not have been formed if it weren’t for Best Buddies.

Every day I get to see students without intellectual disabilities learning so much from their buddies—and those are the best lessons of all.
Support our friendship programs in Wisconsin: DONATE or VOLUNTEER at Best Buddies today.


by MAGGIE ANDERSON
Whitefish Bay Chapter President
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Sometimes it’s lonely being the student whose needs are different than the typical student. It can be tough to develop friendships when you’re the student who feels singled out. That’s why Best Buddies at Whitefish Bay is so important.

As president of the new Best Buddies Whitefish Bay chapter I am overwhelmed that after many parents, staff, and fellow students requested this program, Best Buddies has reached our high school as one of the 30 schools in Wisconsin fortunate enough to have a chapter.

The journey began this past summer when the chapter Vice President, Alexi Richmond and I, along with 50 other student leaders from Wisconsin headed down for four days to the 22nd Annual Best Buddies Leadership Conference at Indiana University.

In those four days, leaders from around the world including countries such as Egypt and Australia all came together to learn about how to continue to spread the word about the importance of developing relationships with people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

From education sessions, to karaoke/movie night, pool party, and a red carpet themed dance, Bay is fully prepared for the upcoming school year. Richmond’s favorite part of the Conference was listening to the speeches that people with IDD gave about the impact Best Buddies has had on their lives.

Chapter secretary, Jordan Lester had this to say about the program, “It will be a great way to provide help and service in an area that I haven’t really seen focus on - building and emphasizing the importance of friendship with people who have disabilities”.

Head of the Associate members, Holley Salmon explains in detail how it will be a great experience for her to work with students who have disabilities, and has always been touched by fellow classmate Kristen Enea and her relationship with her brother, Ryan Enea who has a disability.

Peer buddy Kristen Enea is looking forward to seeing students working together to help make students with disabilities feel a part of the school. Because Enea has an incredible bond with her brother, she knows what it feels like for someone who has a disability to have someone as a friend within the same age.

Senior Justin Alt is delighted for Best Buddies to begin and is excited for his sister Isabelle to be a part of Best Buddies. He expresses, “In the past, special Ed students are isolated on the third floor all day and don’t get to interact with the general Ed students.”

Alt also states, “Best Buddies has already integrated students, which in Isabelle’s case, makes her happy to be at school, she wants to play outside and now enjoys socializing more than staying inside”.

Not only students are touched by this subject, but teachers as well. Physical Education teacher, Ms. Pletzer, also our teacher advisor for Best Buddies, grew up with a neighbor with cerebral palsy and cognitive disabilities.

In Pletzer’s words, “She was pretty awesome”. She teaches adaptive gym class every day and states, “Best Buddies promotes the integration of students of all abilities.” She is thrilled to be involved with the program at Whitefish Bay.

Special Education Advisors Mrs. Thompson and Ms. Kaat are overjoyed that finally these kids are getting the spotlight for once and with just one easy friendship, these student’s lives can be changed.

Within just two months, Bay’s Best Buddies has had two successful fundraisers partnering up with Cousins for a day and soaking up cars while running in the streets for five hours promoting Best Buddies.

We also had multiple informational meetings, a “Get to Know You” Pizza Party and one of our biggest events of the year, our “Match Party”. At our “Get to Know You” Pizza Party, students in all areas spent their lunch hour getting to know each other.
Bay’s Best Buddies recently held its second big event, the annual “Match Party” in the memorial gym where students, staff, and teachers came for a celebration to find out who they will be paired up with for the academic year.
Let the journey and new friendships begin!
Support our friendship programs in Wisconsin: DONATE or VOLUNTEER at Best Buddies today.


by PEG GRAFWALLNER
Best Buddies Wisconsin Parent Advocate
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On August 11, 2001, I brought home our 5 ½ year old daughter, Ani, from a Bulgarian orphanage (all those stories about orphanages – at least in our case – were true). We had waited nearly two years for her to arrive.

Of course, every source told us Ani was “fine” – a relative term we have since learned. But we learned Ani was not “fine,” and we truly believed that our lives would never be “fine” or “normal” again.

But (remember, there has to be a “but”), we did receive two pieces of advice that quintessentially changed our lives. First, give Ani every experience possible, no matter how trivial it might seem. A trip to the Home Depot can be an experience for a little one who has never ventured outside of a room.

Second, ask for help. It’s not a sign of weakness or a sign of surrender; it is an opportunity to learn. Armed with powerful ammunition, we were ready to embark on our journey, realizing that with experiences and help we would be redefining “fine” forever.

Since asking for help is now a part of our vernacular, it is the natural order of Ani’s freshman year in high school that we are new parents in the Best Buddies family. We are looking forward to all the program has to offer, but more importantly we are eager to know how we can make our mark as well.

Asking for help means you have to give back. Best Buddies was not a foreign concept to us. As a high school alternative education teacher, I was aware of the program and knew of its tremendous potential. Also Mike and I had learned over the years not to be timid or shy when it came to advocate for Ani and her needs (name the label – she’s got it).

During her middle school years, I had asked about the Best Buddies program and knew that her high school, Brown Deer, had just started a Best Buddies program and that their special educational teacher, Erin Leedom, had begun BB at her prior school and was instrumental in getting BB off the ground at Brown Deer. We knew the program would be ready when she got there.

I recently attended the first Best Buddies meeting where the Buddy is matched with the Peer Buddy. I was impressed with the kindness, compassion and normalcy of the group. Because we want Ani to be surrounded by all types of people, it is imperative that she learn to get along with and communicate with everyone. Best Buddies will allow her that opportunity.

It’s been over 10 years since I brought Ani home from that orphanage. While there have been challenges, there have been far more joys and successes. I was right – our lives have changed, things are not as they had been before. But, I can honestly say our family is fine, and we know Best Buddies will become an integral part of our ongoing success.
Support our friendship programs in Wisconsin: DONATE or VOLUNTEER at Best Buddies today.


by NICK LYONS
Best Buddies Wisconsin
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The 2011 "We See You" award winners were selected based on their leadership abilities, fostering inclusion within their schools and communities, advocating for individuals with disabilities (including self-advocacy), and having future plans that demonstrate a commitment to inclusion in society.

This year, on behalf of the Ziemann Foundation and Best Buddies Wisconsin, we would like to congratulate our three winners – Alex Cohen (Nicolet Chapter President), Alex Haunty (Middleton Best Buddies member), and Anna Wolfe (Shorewood Chapter President). Well done from Best Buddies Wisconsin!

On behalf of the Ziemann Foundation and Best Buddies Wisconsin, we are pleased to award Alex Cohen, Alex Haunty, and Anna Wolfe the 2011 We See You Award.

This $1,000 award is given to three graduating seniors that are currently involved in their Best Buddies high school chapter and have excelled in their role.

These three were selected based on outstanding leadership abilities, fostering inclusion within their high schools and communities, consistently advocating for individuals with disabilities (including self-advocacy), and having future vocational and/or educational plans that demonstrate a commitment to the inclusion of people with disabilities in society.

Congratulations to Alex Cohen – Nicolet High School’s Chapter President, Alex Haunty – a Middleton High School Buddy (member with a disability), and Anna Wolfe – Shorewood High School’s Chapter President. Each of you truly deserved this award – well done!
Support our friendship programs in Wisconsin: DONATE or VOLUNTEER at Best Buddies today.


by NICK LYONS
Best Buddies Wisconsin
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University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire | Outstanding Chapter 2010-2011
UW-Eau Claire CBD, Nicole Weber, along with Anthony Kennedy Shriver and Ambassador Molly Noble

Oconomowoc High School | Outstanding Chapter 2010-2011
Oconomowoc High School CP, Katie McMullen, along with Anthony Kennedy Shriver and Ambassador Molly Noble
The Best Buddies chapters at University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire and Oconomowoc High School were presented with the 2010-2011 Outstanding Chapter Award at Best Buddies International’s 22nd Annual Best Buddies Leadership Conference, July 22-25, 2011.

Both of these schools were selected as the 2010-2011 Best Buddies Wisconsin Outstanding Chapters for their dedication to the Best Buddies mission.

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


by NICK LYONS
Best Buddies Wisconsin
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Best Buddies Wisconsin has been working hard this spring to ensure that four new chapters start off with a bang next fall. Menomonee Falls High School, Mukwonago High School, Wauwatosa West High School, and Whitefish Bay High School have been selected to join the group of existing chapters that make up Best Buddies Wisconsin.

Starting in the fall of 2011, this means that there are 23 high school chapters in Wisconsin (in addition to 5 college chapters and 2 middle school chapters.) Each of these schools are very excited to have the program and have full support from faculty, staff, and administration, as well as strong student interest.

Best Buddies Wisconsin is excited to work with our new schools and looks forward to what the future will bring with each of these chapters!
Support our friendship programs in Wisconsin: DONATE or VOLUNTEER at Best Buddies today.


by NICK LYONS
Best Buddies Wisconsin
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At the end of July a group of Best Buddies Wisconsin student leaders traveled to hot and steamy Bloomington, Indiana to attend the 22nd Annual Best Buddies Leadership Conference.

Forty-eight students representing all 30 of Best Buddies Wisconsin’s chapters gathered for three days on Indiana University’s campus to participate in personalized trainings, meet other Best Buddies participants from all over the country and the world, and gain inspiration to take home to their individual chapters and communities.

Through large and small group trainings, these student leaders developed the skills needed to organize a successful Best Buddies chapter and promote our mission. Inspirational speeches and events motivated the students to help bring about social change in their schools and communities.

The students learned from each other, shared their passion, and developed important leadership skills they will use for the rest of their lives.
Best Buddies Wisconsin looks forward to working with the students this year to help them take what they learned from Leadership Conference and apply it to their chapters. Leadership Conference was a success in 2011…just like we know each or our chapters will be!

To see pictures from the Leadership Conference, check us out on Facebook.
Support our friendship programs in Wisconsin: DONATE or VOLUNTEER at Best Buddies today.


by CHELSEA ROSKA
Best Buddies Wisconsin
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Best Buddies Wisconsin congratulates Alex Cohen (Nicolet High School), Alex Haunty (Middleton High School), and Anna Wolfe (Shorewood High School) on being recipients of the 2011 “We See You” award. Award winners will each receive a check for $1,000 along with an engraved plaque to commemorate their accomplishment.

This Award is the brain child of the Ziemann Foundation in partnership with Best Buddies Wisconsin as a means of recognizing exceptional students within a Best Buddies high school chapter and is open to both mainstream students and students with intellectual disabilities who are active members of their chapter.

These three were selected based on outstanding leadership abilities, fostering inclusion within their high schools and communities, consistently advocating for individuals with disabilities (including self-advocacy), and having future vocational and/or educational plans that demonstrate a commitment to the inclusion of people with disabilities in society.

The Ziemann Foundation is a private family foundation with a history of funding projects that promote the inclusion of people with disabilities. The mission of the foundation is to improve the quality of life for citizens with disabilities in southeastern Wisconsin.

Cynthia Linnan, Vice President of the Ziemann Foundation commented: “The Ziemann Foundation has a history of funding pilot projects. We believe this three year grant for the We See You award program will resonate with Best Buddies programs in other states and will be easily replicated, bringing more visibility to the organization and its mission.”

Each of you truly deserved this award – well done!
Support our friendship programs in Wisconsin: DONATE or VOLUNTEER at Best Buddies today.


by CHELSEA ROSKA
Best Buddies Wisconsin
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Best Buddies Wisconsin would like to extend a warm thank you to the Milwaukee Brewers Community Foundation for donating 500 tickets to a recent baseball game, and to the Milwaukee Elks Lodge #46 for hosting a pre-game tailgate for our students!

Despite the stormy weather, students and family members filled Oak Creek’s cafeteria to fill up on hot dogs, burgers, potato salad and chips prepared and served by the Milwaukee Elks Lodge #46.

Attendees played indoor games like ladder golf, bowling, and cornhole, while socializing with members from many of our chapters. Graduating chapter presidents and chapter advisors were recognized and thanked by Best Buddies Wisconsin staff before everyone boarded the buses to head to Miller Park.

Once at Miller Park approximately 500 Best Buddies members and their families filled the stands and cheered the Brewers onto victory. Before the night was over, Best Buddies Wisconsin was even recognized on the Brewers’ new score board!

What a wonderful way to celebrate the end of the 2010-2011 school year. Thank you Brewers Community Foundation and Milwaukee Elks Lodge #46 for making this event possible!
Support our friendship programs in Wisconsin: DONATE or VOLUNTEER at Best Buddies today.


by CHELSEA ROSKA
Best Buddies Wisconsin
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Best Buddies Wisconsin has been working hard this spring to ensure that four new chapters start off with a bang next fall. Menomonee Falls High School, Mukwonago High School, Wauwatosa West High School, and Whitefish Bay High School have been selected to join the group of existing chapters that make up Best Buddies Wisconsin.

Starting in the fall of 2011, this means that there are 23 high school chapters in Wisconsin (in addition to 5 college chapters and 2 middle school chapters.) Each of these schools are very excited to have the program and have full support from faculty, staff, and administration, as well as strong student interest.

Best Buddies Wisconsin is excited to work with our new schools and looks forward to what the future will bring with each of these chapters!
Support our friendship programs in Wisconsin: DONATE or VOLUNTEER at Best Buddies today.


by CHELSEA ROSKA
Best Buddies Wisconsin
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Two local Wisconsin college chapters, the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee and Marquette University, have talented Buddies that recently entered in a nationwide contest looking for talented Best Buddies participants.

Eric Look, from the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee chapter, is an extremely talented composer and pianist. Check out his submission:

Marquette University features John Olson who has quite the voice and knows how to put on a show. Hear John perform “Your Cheating Heart”:

Results aren’t in yet, but Best Buddies founder and chairman, Anthony Kennedy Shriver, will choose a winning submission and they will perform at the Best Buddies Leadership Conference opening ceremonies in July 2011!

Best Buddies Wisconsin is proud of Eric and John - check out Eric’s and John’s performance and show them your support!

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


by CHELSEA ROSKA
Best Buddies Wisconsin
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In their first full year as a chapter, Brookfield East has worked hard to establish itself as a successful group. Led by strong student leaders with very supportive advisors, this chapter started off large with 22 matches and 66 total members!

Throughout the year, dedicated members attended unique events planned by the chapter as well as built their friendships through one-on-one activities.

Sports were on the mind at some events as members attended Brookfield East basketball games and tested their bowling skills at a local bowling alley. The fun doesn’t end when school does for this chapter …the students are also planning a karaoke night at Latte Café this June which parents and future Best Buddies participants from a nearby middle school will be invited to attend. Brookfield East chapter members are also invited to a pool party this summer at a member’s house!

Best Buddies Wisconsin is proud of how successful this first year chapter is and we look forward to Brookfield East growing next year.

If you live in the Brookfield community and would like to provide a financial donation to the chapter, or if you can help host activities, please call Best Buddies Wisconsin at 414-271-1470.
Support our friendship programs in Wisconsin: DONATE or VOLUNTEER at Best Buddies today.


by CHELSEA ROSKA
Best Buddies Wisconsin
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Best Buddies Wisconsin would like to thank the graduating seniors in each chapter for their dedication to their school’s chapter. Seniors are the leaders in their school and their participation in Best Buddies is observed and taken into account by all the younger students in the school.

What a great way to lead by example! We know that senior year is a busy and exciting year for everyone, which makes it even more remarkable that this year there were over 200 seniors who participated in a Best Buddies chapter.

Fifteen out of 24 high school and college Chapter Presidents are graduating, and many of our other officers were seniors as well. We wish the seniors well in their future endeavors and hope that Best Buddies was an important part of your senior year!

We will be recognizing our 200 graduating seniors on May 9, 2011 at our Volunteer Recognition Tailgate and Brewer Game.
Support our friendship programs in Wisconsin: DONATE or VOLUNTEER at Best Buddies today.


by CHELSEA ROSKA
Best Buddies Wisconsin
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Another group of people that need a lot of thanking is the advisors for each Best Buddies chapter. Special Education and Faculty advisors dedicate precious time to each of these chapters to ensure success and support their student leaders.

Best Buddies advisors help students make matches, plan chapter activities, generate community support, work with parents, track chapter funds, communicate with Best Buddies staff, and mentor student leaders as they work on building leadership skills that will benefit them the rest of their lives.

Although Best Buddies’ chapters are student-run organizations, they could not exist without the help and support of their advisors. We all know how hectic teachers’ schedules are, making the time dedicated by these advisors that much more important.

Thank You Best Buddies’ advisors for spending free time making a difference in students’ lives!
Support our friendship programs in Wisconsin: DONATE or VOLUNTEER at Best Buddies today.


by CHELSEA ROSKA
Best Buddies Wisconsin
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Shorewood High School’s Best Buddies chapter has taken their chapter and interwoven it into year-round community activities. Many of the Shorewood chapter’s events have spread into the surrounding area.

This summer they sold popcorn at their community’s Fourth of July fireworks display and participated in the parade. During the fall, they walked in their high school’s homecoming parade and held a fundraiser selling pies made by an area restaurant to community members. Over the winter, the chapter went sledding at a popular hill and attended a play at a local theater.

For the Spread the Word to End the Word campaign they sold t-shirts throughout the school and had their Varsity Girls basketball team warm-up in the t-shirts in order to spread awareness to the crowd that showed up to cheer them on.  This spring, members will be joining their Buddies at Concordia University’s Job Olympics.

Shorewood’s chapter is small but full of dedicated students who thrive on making their chapter a success. With 29 members and 11 matches the chapter finds enjoyable ways to involve every member as well as their community.

Best Buddies Wisconsin looks forward to what this chapter has planned for the rest of the spring! If you live in the Shorewood community and would like to provide a financial donation to the chapter, or if you can help host activities, please call Best Buddies Wisconsin at 414-271-1470.
Support our friendship programs in Wisconsin: DONATE or VOLUNTEER at Best Buddies today.


by CHELSEA ROSKA
Best Buddies Wisconsin
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Best Buddies Wisconsin would like to thank the Milwaukee Brewers for donating a generous amount of tickets to our organization! All Best Buddies member and their families are invited to our “Best Buddies Brewer Game Tailgate” on Monday, May 9, 2011.

Before the game, Oak Creek High School and the Oak Creek Rotary Club will host a pre-game tailgate party, and then we will go to the game together! What a great way to celebrate the end of the year and have everyone to get together one last time before the summer. Family members are welcome as well.

Best Buddies Wisconsin looks forward to seeing our chapter members at the ball park on Monday, May 9, 2011 to root on the Milwaukee Brewers to a WIN!
Support our friendship programs in Wisconsin: DONATE or VOLUNTEER at Best Buddies today.


by NICK LYONS
Best Buddies Wisconsin
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The Ziemann Foundation is proud to offer a $1,000 scholarship opportunity to graduating high school seniors. Both students with and without Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (IDD) are encouraged to apply.

Applicants must be high school seniors that are scheduled to graduate in the Spring of 2011 and an active member of a Best Buddies Wisconsin chapter.

Applicants must be members in good standing with the chapter as shown by participation in chapter activities, demonstrated commitment to their friendship, and to improving the quality of life for citizens with IDD.

Download the application.
Support our friendship programs in Wisconsin: DONATE or VOLUNTEER at Best Buddies today.


by CHELSEA ROSKA
Best Buddies Wisconsin
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Homestead High Schools Best Buddies chapter is always organizing something unique and fun. This chapter thinks outside the box when it comes to planning activities. So far this school year members walked in their homecoming parade, painted pumpkins, decorated holiday ornaments at a local pottery studio, and made valentines for residents at an area nursing home.

They also know how to have fun when it comes to raising money for their chapter. In the fall, members scooped ice cream and sold Sprecher root beer floats during their lunch period. In March, they plan to hold an annual Bowl-a-thon fundraiser at a community bowling alley.

Homesteads large, 100-member chapter, is led by a devoted group of students with support from outstanding faculty advisors. With a chapter this big one may think its hard to get everyone together for group events.

This is not the case for Homesteads chapter; the majority of members attend each exciting activity planned by their student leaders and faculty advisors.

Best Buddies Wisconsin is happy to have such a creative, successful chapter and we look forward to Homesteads spring events. If you live in the Mequon community and would like to provide a financial donation to the chapter, or if you can help host activities, please call Best Buddies Wisconsin at (414) 271-1470.
Support our friendship programs in Wisconsin: DONATE or VOLUNTEER at Best Buddies today.


by NICK LYONS
Best Buddies Wisconsin
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Best Buddies Wisconsin would like to thank KAPCO, Inc. for donating 25 tickets to a Milwaukee Bucks game in December. Best Buddies members from Brown Deer High School, Marquette University High School, Nathan Hale High School, Oak Creek High School, and UWM cheered on the Bucks to victory from lower level seats!

Everyone who attended had a great time some students even tried to get on the Jumbo-Tron by dancing during game breaks.

Thank you KAPCO, Inc. for making this friendship opportunity possible!
Support our friendship programs in Wisconsin: DONATE or VOLUNTEER at Best Buddies today.


by NICK LYONS
Best Buddies Wisconsin
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Members of Best Buddies at Franklin High School have embraced a unique idea for their chapter focus some of their activities around community service. On Veterans Day, the group made personalized thank you cards that were delivered to a local Veterans Hospital.

For the holiday season members sang songs in the lobby of Franklins Wheaton Franciscan Health Care Center bringing smiles to patients, visitors and staff members alike.

Franklins chapter has almost 40 members with a dedicated set of student leaders who receive ample support from their chapter advisors. In October, Franklins chapter hosted a Halloween festival and invited other nearby Best Buddies chapters to attend.

Students learned to dance to Thriller, got their faces painted, drank apple cider, picked a pumpkin out of a pumpkin patch, and played Halloween-themed carnival games. Everyone had a blast!

Best Buddies Wisconsin is looking forward to see what type of activities this chapter plans for the spring semester!

If you live in the Franklin Community and would like to provide a financial donation to the chapter or can help host activities, please call Best Buddies Wisconsin at (414) 271-1470.
Inspired by our story? Support our friendship programs in Wisconsin: DONATE or VOLUNTEER at Best Buddies today.


by NICK LYONS
Best Buddies Wisconsin
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UW-Milwaukee is our newest college chapter in Wisconsin. With 21 Buddy Pairs and almost 50 total members, UWM has been keeping busy in its first full year as a chapter. In an effort to allow members to get to know each other the chapter hosted a Buddy Bowling night and participated in the Buddy Walk a walk that supports Wisconsin Upside Down Foundation.

At their Halloween matching party, members enjoyed a scavenger hunt, painted pumpkins, and watched the Wizard of Oz while dressed in various costumes. And, the chapter took a trip to Mayfair Mall at the end of the semester so that members could finish their holiday shopping.

This chapter has started off with a bang and has big plans for the spring semester. Along with regular monthly activities, UWM is planning an Evening of Awareness event in March that will tie into the national Spread the Word to End the Word campaign a campaign that aims to end the use of the derogatory r-word. Best Buddies Wisconsin is proud of this young college chapter and all it has accomplished in its short history.
Inspired by our story? Support our friendship programs in Wisconsin: DONATE or VOLUNTEER at Best Buddies today.


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NICHOLAS LYONS
Best Buddies Wisconsin

The Port Washington High School chapter of Best Buddies is off to a scary good start. At the matching party participants discovered their pair by finding the picture that best matched theirs. Everyone had a blast, and pairs included peanut butter paired with jelly, lips matching with lipstick, and milk and cookies!

The club has more than 40 members and a strong group of club leaders. On Sunday, October 31st the club went trick or treating for the hungry. Together they walked around Port Washington collecting cans for the local food pantry. The club is also looking forward to a movie night and a bake sale fundraiser.

Best Buddies Wisconsin is very happy and proud of the chapter and we wish them a wonderful year of programming!


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NICHOLAS LYONS
Best Buddies Wisconsin

Oconomowoc got off to a great start with a bonfire at a club members house.  Everyone ate hot dogs, made some s’mores and enjoyed a bonfire on a fun-filled Friday night.

The chapter has more than 70 students involved.  The club also participated in the Oconomowoc homecoming parade and attended the musical ‘Bye Bye Birdie’ as a chapter event.

The chapter is looking forward to a big ‘Spread the Word to End the Word’ campaign in March.  They will be hosting a disability awareness assembly for the entire school on March 1st to kick off the campaign!

Best Buddies Wisconsin is proud of the hard work of the chapter and officers and wishes them a continued year of friendship and fun!


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Best Buddies Wisconsin


The We See You Award was given to three students in their final year of high school who demonstrated commitment to their Best Buddies chapter and to equality and inclusion for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Each received a $1,000 award generously provided by the Ziemann Foundation.

The Ziemann Foundation is a family foundation created by Mr. and Mrs. Harry Ziemann and is committed to improving the lives of citizens with disabilities in Southeastern Wisconsin.

For more information, visit their website at http://online.foundationsource.com/public/home/ziemann


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Destiny Watson and her buddy Alyssa
by JULIE CAAN
Best Buddies Wisconsin


As the temperature heats up and the countdown until the end of school commences, Best Buddies Wisconsin would like to close the year with a HUGE thank-you to all of our students, chapters and volunteers for what has been another outstanding year!  It’s hard to believe that another year has come and past and summer is just around the corner.

Even though summer is less than a month away, Best Buddies Wisconsin would like to continue to recognize all of your hard work and dedication from the past year.

As part of the website’s ongoing “Chapter Spotlight” series, we will feature Oak Creek High School.  The chapter is a true model of what Best Buddies programs are all about—friendship, fun and acceptance.

“Best Buddies is important for students with and without intellectual disabilities. Students without intellectual disabilities are made aware of students with intellectual disabilities and students with intellectual disabilities can feel included along with everyone else.  The program is just a great overall experience; it’s a real win-win,” said Raquel Thorsen.

Raquel Thorsen is the program advisor for Oak Creek high school’s Best Buddies chapter.  Raquel has watched the chapter flourish since its birth nearly four years ago.

“At present we have 56 students, made up of 18 Buddy pairs and about 20 Associate Buddies.  We keep growing each year, but this has been our biggest year.”

While it has been the chapter’s biggest year, it has also been one of its busiest years yet.  Oak Creek has held several events including: a winter Olympics party with games, torch making, and Olympic style cookies, a successful “End the R-Word” campaign, a spring carnival complete with carnival style games and prizes, and an upcoming end of the year kickball tournament with a few very special guests.

“We’re very excited to have the Brewer’s Racing Sausages at our tournament.  We plan to race with them and take lots of pictures!”

Another new program for the chapter was a very special entrance into the school’s annual Homecoming parade.  First, students voted on a “prince” and “princess.”  The prince and princess then received the royal treatment, getting dressed up, riding in a convertible, and throwing out candy as stars in the parade.

“The kids who made prince and princess were just thrilled to dress up and ride in convertible.  They were so happy smiling and waving to the crowd.”

Raquel shared that she has tried to incorporate Best Buddies into the students’ day to day lives at school.  Through the “Walking Club,” Buddy Pairs are given the opportunity to spend quality one-on-one time during their study halls as they walk the halls for “golden shoes” that can earn the students prizes.

Although Oak Creek has experienced another rewarding year, Raquel feels improvements can always be made.  She shared, “Next year I would like to do a bigger community service project, possibly something with the Hunger Task Force.”

Best Buddies Oak Creek has certainly had a memorable year.  Even though Best Buddies takes a break during the summer months, it is never too early to start planning for the fall!  Remember the friendships you have made and the memories you will never forget.  Have a fantastic summer!


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The Nicolet Chapter at the Best Buddies Ball
by JULIE CAAN
Best Buddies Wisconsin


This month Best Buddies Wisconsin would like to recognize Nicolet High School.  The chapter has certainly had an action packed, unforgettable year.

From Pairing Parties to Halloween Parties, and one very memorable Valentine’s Day celebration, the students have had many opportunities to bond through similar fun activities.

Senior President Julia Chelmowski is most proud of how the group’s Valentine’s Party turned out.  The students got crafty decorating cookies, painting clay hearts and making Valentine’s Day cards.

They also played games with conversation hearts and searched for words like “cute” and “call me” in crossword puzzles and word searches.  But the real party got started after all the cookies were eaten and the words found.

“Everyone had a great time and loved all the activities. Then, all of a sudden, a dance party broke out. Soon, we were all dancing around the room! It was a blast and a great way to end the party!” said Julia.

According to Julia, the chapter is made up of 22 Buddies, 20 Peer Buddies and 25 Associate Members.  In addition to attending chapter events, Buddy pairs appreciate spending quality time with one another—sharing common interests and even trying new things.

“Our Buddy Pairs enjoy a variety of activities, including playing sports, watching movies, shopping, cooking, hiking, going out to eat, and attending Best Buddies events.”

Julia was involved with a similar organization to Best Buddies in Middle School.  After learning about Best Buddies her sophomore year, she immediately filled out an application in anticipation of social change at her high school.

“I had noticed that in our high school, most of the students with disabilities were secluded and not accepted very well by other students. I thought this program would be a great way to bring everyone together and instead of focusing on our differences, we can focus on our similarities.”

Although Julia will no longer be a student at Nicolet next year, she would like to see the chapter continue to grow.

“Next year, I think it would be great if Nicolet's Best Buddies chapter becomes involved in more volunteer opportunities and holds more fundraisers.”

Julia is looking forward to finishing her senior year and participating in her chapter’s remaining events.  After a scavenger hunt and bowling event, she will no longer be a member of Best Buddies at Nicolet High School, but the organization, as well as its message, will remain close to her heart.

“Friendship is about being there for someone during the good times and the bad times. It is also about accepting people for their good and bad qualities. I never would’ve expected that I would make so many amazing friendships through this program. It’s going to be very hard leaving for college next year, but I know I will keep in contact with all of them!”


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Torrie and her Buddy, Katie
by JULIE CAAN
Best Buddies Wisconsin


The dictionary defines friendship as the “quality or condition of being friends.”  At Best Buddies Wisconsin we understand that friendship means so much more.

Friends are the people you can rely on, share your hopes, dreams, and fears with, and most of all, a friend is someone you truly enjoy spending time with.

At chapter meetings, events and state outings, your smiles and laughter are a true testament to the real friendships that develop through Best Buddies programs.

Whether it’s going to sporting events, attending the Best Buddies Ball, sharing a meal, or just hanging out, it all starts with friendship.  Friendships don’t just happen overnight.  Friendships take work, but they’re worth it.

A good friend is someone who makes you a better person.  They support your decisions.  They’re there for you when you’re feeling down.  They accept you for you.  Sound familiar? And, what better example is there of friendship than a “Buddy Pair?”

Torrie Caufield has known her Buddy, Katie, since she was in the third grade.  Over the years the girls have shared sleepovers and secrets.  Through it all, they’ve found a way to keep their friendship strong.  Today, as seniors at Homestead High School, the pair remain close as they share their special friendship with Best Buddies.

“Katie and I have gotten closer because of Best Buddies; I’ve gotten closer with her family too,” said Torrie.  Torrie is the President of the Homestead High School chapter.

“All of the Buddies have so much fun at our meetings.  They really enjoy the opportunity to do different things that they maybe wouldn’t normally get to do.  Best Buddies is a great way to meet new people and try new things,” explained Torrie.

Torrie shared that she and Katie enjoy going out to eat at restaurants like Einstein Bagels and Panera Bread.  The girls have also found that going out to eat or to the movies are fun ways to “catch up” and spend time outside of school.

“We try to do a lot of different things together,” said Torrie adding, “We like to play tennis too.”

Mara Hale and her Buddy, Isaac, also enjoy getting out and being active.

“We really enjoy going to movies and getting ice cream. We also like to play mini golf when it's nice out,” said Mara.

Mara is Homestead High School’s chapter Vice President.  She joined the organization two years ago and has never looked back—insisting that she’s “loving every minute” of her Best Buddies experience.

“Isaac and I talk a lot and love spending time together.  Issac and I are very close. We've become a lot closer throughout this year. He always cheers me up. Isaac is continuously happy and always wants to go out and do things, which I love.”

Both Mara and Torrie agreed that chapter meetings and events are gatherings everyone can look forward to.  Meetings, like friendships, require time and planning, but the end result is always worth it.

“Our chapter enjoys going to Glaze to paint ceramics during the holiday season. Also, we have a ton of fun at our bowl-a-thon. We make sure every meeting is interesting and has a fun activity attached like bingo, card making, or taking buddy pictures,” said Mara.

Even though this is the last year for both students, they plan to remain close with their Buddies.

“We will definitely stay in touch. I still stay in touch with my Buddy who graduated last year,” said Mara.

“I know Katie and I will always be friends,” said Torrie, who shared that she plans to join Best Buddies in college.

True friendship continues to grow, even over the longest distances.


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UW-Eau Claires Spread the Word to End the Word banner


Lindsay Steig—College Buddy Director, Jenna Evans--Membership Co-Chair, and Krista Sershen
by JULIE CAAN
Best Buddies Wisconsin


Best Buddies Wisconsin Chapters work to Spread the Word to End the Word at their schools.

In our society it’s easy to get caught up in the latest trends or with the newest fad.  Unfortunately, what’s cool isn’t always what’s right.   Groups of friends adopt words and phrases as their own with little regard for a word’s original meaning and context.  Pop culture phenomena’s like 2004’s smash hit Mean Girls may make it seem okay to use hurtful words in social settings-but it’s not okay.

That’s why Best Buddies and Special Olympics teamed up on March 3rd for the Spread the Word to End the Word day of awareness.  The R-Word’s hurtful impact on people with intellectual and developmental disabilities needs be recognized. This outdated, hurtful and de-humanizing word has worked its way into the contexts of everyday conversation.   For Best Buddies Wisconsin students, March 3rd was a day used to raise awareness and promote social change among their peers. 

At Wauwatosa Tosa East High School, Leslie Dess and her chapter organized to raise the conscience levels of fellow students and teachers in and out of the classroom.  For Leslie and her chapter, spreading the word knows no boundaries.

“On the Tuesday after the campaign, we had "teach-ins" during second hour. For this we divided the buddy pairs into teams of four and each team was assigned a group of classrooms. The buddies and peer buddies informed the student body on disability awareness and why we believed the R-Word campaign was so important,” Leslie said.  Proof that passionate people are able to achieve anything with hard work, the chapter reached the entire school with its message in just an hour. 

On the day of, Buddies blanketed the school with 15 posters where students were able to take pledges to stop using the R-Word.  Participants in the campaign received candy and were entered into a drawing after taking the pledge.  According to Leslie, the chapter had such overwhelming support that teams of four to five students were able to travel the halls promoting the campaign and encouraging students to sign the posters.  All total the chapter collected over 1,000 pledges!  Beyond pieces of paper, 1,000 signatures, translates into more informed and compassionate people.

“I feel like this campaign has been great to spread awareness of the true meaning of the word and how demeaning and derogatory it actually is. I hope people now think before they use the R-Word and choose to use a less offensive one or not one at all,” said Leslie.

At University of Wisconsin Eau Claire College Buddy Director Lindsay Steig and her chapter took a slightly different, but still successful approach to gather support on a college campus.  First, the chapter created a huge banner that read: UW-Eau Claire pledges to end the derogatory, conversational use of the word RETARD(ED).

“On March 2nd we sat in our Student Center and handed out flyers, sold bracelets, and enlightened people as to why the R-Word is hurtful to us and individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities,” added Lindsay.

On March 3rd, the group sat outside of campus dining hall areas where virtually all students pass before going to eat.  To create even more buzz, several articles about the chapter’s events were featured in the university’s newspaper.

Overall, Lindsay shared that the campaign was a success, but knows that more can always be done to reach an even larger audience. As an aspiring Special Education school teacher, she realizes that many people struggle to stop using the derogatory term in everyday conversations, but recognizes that a conscience effort needs to be made in order to stop.

“I think it's hard to say how they can stop. If need be they could keep tallies to see how much they really say it, or wear a rubber band and snap it each time they do.”

It’s difficult to end a bad habit or to stop using a word that has become second nature. However, as hardworking chapters and individuals have proved over the last month; anything is possible if you make a conscience effort.  Best Buddies Wisconsin would like to thank all the chapters who have participated in the Spread the Word to End the Campaign and everyone who has taken a pledge of acceptance.  Even though the day of awareness has come and gone, it’s important to be mindful of its message: Think before you speak, change starts with you.

“My hope is that the R-Word campaign is ongoing and is something that Best Buddies embraces and doesn't just do for one day,” said Lindsay.


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by JULIE CAAN
Best Buddies Wisconsin


Each month, the Best Buddies Wisconsin state office will highlight the achievements and attributes of one outstanding chapter.  We would like to recognize each chapter’s individual successes and unique methods of sharing the Best Buddies mission in schools and communities.  Your hard work and ongoing commitment to friendship and acceptance needs to be recognized!

This month we will highlight the Marquette University chapter.  The chapter has been recognized internationally as one of nine outstanding chapters at the Best Buddies International’s 20th Annual Student Leadership Conference.

The chapter just finished its biggest fundraising event of the year: The Second Annual Best Buddies Marquette University Showcase.

"We dance, we shake our groove thangs, and it’s a ton of fun.  We SHOW people what Best Buddies is all about by celebrating our friendships and talents on stage.  We really love it that other student organizations are incorporated into our show because we want to show how we are all integrated into the same Marquette community,” said Britney Parish, the College Buddy Director at Marquette.

The theme for this year’s showcase was “Friendship Through the Decades.”  Buddies were able to show off their talents, collaborate with other University organizations and have fun working together for the same cause.  According to Britney, the event was a tremendous success and a great way to both “show and tell” about the Best Buddies organization.

“Going with the theme, the MC's also educated the crowd about the history of intellectual disabilities to show where we've been, where we are, and how far we still have to go.”

As the college Buddy Director, Britney coordinates committees that help organize and plan events like the Best Buddies showcase, volunteer days, and fundraisers that are in accordance with University and Best Buddies International policies.

The chapter currently has 53 college members, 18 of which are associate members, and 33 Buddy members.  Although she admits to becoming involved with Best Buddies by “accident,” Britney has been a part of the organization for four years.  For her, the most important component to a great chapter is the people involved.

“We have an especially awesome officer crew and committee members who really put a lot of time and effort into our successful events.  They are motivated, hardworking people that contribute to making our chapter really unique, energetic and fun.”

Outside of the showcase event, the chapter works hard throughout the year to show, rather than tell the college campus about the Best Buddies mission.

“Best Buddies sponsored the Hunger Task Force food drive, and the Holiday Giving Tree this year.  We collected food at our Thanksgiving/Christmas event, and people signed up to buy presents for the less fortunate.”

The group also has big plans to “Spread the Word to End the Word” on campus.  So far, the chapter has five events planned from March 28-March 31st.  Having a Best Buddies program on a college campus allows the students to show their peers what it is like to interact with people with disabilities.

“A friendship with them is just like any other friendship.  It allows people to open their minds about what it means to "be disabled" and see the person for who they are.”

The Marquette chapter stresses friendship beyond just the Best Buddies program. As we all know, a Best Buddies friendship has the potential to blossom and grow into something more.  For Britney, a friendship starts with a Buddy Pair and grows exponentially as new friends and family are introduced.  From there, the friendship only continues to grow.

This is just one example of many outstanding Best Buddies Wisconsin chapters.  Keep your eyes on the Buddies at Marquette University as they continue to plan more events and foster even more friendships.


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Nioclet High School at the Best Buddies Ball
by JULIE CAAN
Best Buddies Wisconsin


Each year the annual Best Buddies Ball is eagerly anticipated by Best Buddies chapters all across Wisconsin. The Ball is a place where Buddies and their Peer Buddies can let loose dancing, socializing and making new friends.

On Saturday evening, March 13, Best Buddies High school students arrived dressed and ready to have a great time with their friends on and off the dance floor.

The “I see you” themed dance originated from an African tribal greeting meaning I see you as a person.

To complete the theme, the Marquette High School gymnasium was transformed into a tropical jungle paradise complete with “party animals”-lions, zebras and monkeys, oh my! But the real party took place on the dance floor.

“The DJ at the dance was great and we had so much fun dancing. No one wanted to go home at the end of the night, because we were having so much fun!” said Julia Chelmowski, a senior at Nicolet high school. This was the Julia’s second year attending the ball.

The dance floor was packed with students showing off their best moves all night, from the first to the last song. Countless song requests were made, but the night’s clear favorites were from Miley Cyrus, Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga among others. When students weren’t busy dancing they could be found taking pictures in front of a jungle themed background that was perfect for group shots.

In the spirit of what Best Buddies is all about the dance, attended by students from a variety of different schools and backgrounds, was an evening of friendship. Whether students came separately or in large groups, everyone was included.

“We got to meet a lot of new people from other schools. At the dance, there is such an accepting atmosphere and I think everyone just feels very comfortable. No one was ever sitting alone. I know that there were several Buddies from other schools who came alone, not knowing anyone. About ten minutes into the dance, you wouldn’t even know that they came alone,” added Julia.
Students met people from other schools and re-united with friends from different chapters.

“I had a lot of fun because I enjoy the events where there are Best Buddies from multiple schools and we all get to mingle,” said Nina Darwich, a senior at Nathan Hale High School.

Courtney Lopez, this year’s Miss Wisconsin USA and Miss Teen USA, Kirsten Norderhaug made a very special appearance at the ball. The inspirational beauties were on hand all night to dance, take pictures and sign autographs with Buddies.

For both Nina and Julia, the dance was a reminder of all the great friendships and times shared throughout the years. Overall, the evening was a true testament to all the hard work put in this year and a sign of even more good things to come. Some students arrived only knowing one or two people, but left surrounded by new friends with awesome memories.

“When you are at a Best Buddies event, it’s a very accepting atmosphere and it’s a great opportunity for people to become comfortable and more confident when meeting new people,” said Julia.

At Best Buddies, that’s what it’s all about.


by JULIE CAAN
Best Buddies Wisconsin


Festival City Symphony
On Jan. 27, Special Olympics and Best Buddies from across the country  joined together in Washington D.C. for the annual Capitol Hill Day.

Best Buddies Wisconsin representatives, Wendy Walker and Vickie Lawrence participated to encourage Congress to pass the Eunice Kennedy Shriver Act.

The act is a joint effort by Best Buddies and Special Olympics to gain continued funding for its programs benefiting people with intellectual disabilities around the world.

In the spirit of the late Eunice Kennedy Shriver, everyone involved worked together to raise awareness, share stories of success and most importantly, foster new friendships.

“We went to Washington to teach politicians and other people that people like me with disabilities have jobs, we can drive cars, we have our own apartments, and that having Best Buddies in every state helps people with disabilities,” said Lawrence.

“Hill Day” was action packed from the start.  More than 275 meetings were held, more than half of which were with members of Congress.

“We spoke with politicians and senators.  Herb Kohl was the first Senator I met and he was my favorite. He’s such a nice man,” but Vickie admits she was even more star struck after meeting musician, Joe Jonas, “I got a picture with him!”
Both representatives were given the opportunity to meet with Best Buddies founder, Anthony Shriver as well.

When Walker and Vickie weren’t busy meeting with important politicians, giving speeches, or advocating on the streets, they were able to have fun exploring the city.  For Lawrence, who gave a speech of her own, the day was an opportunity to learn more about the organization that has meant so much to her over the course of 13 years.

“I learned more about Eunice Kennedy, I didn’t know that she actually started Special Olympics.  When I tell the story, I say that Eunice started Special Olympics and then her son Anthony saw people like me with disabilities working with people with non-disabilities and he thought; how can I make this into a friendship?  And that’s how best buddies came about,” said Lawrence.

Overall, the day was a success. Best Buddies Wisconsin was glad to be a part of this important event and to have such great representatives. Both Best Buddies and Special Olympics programs can look forward to another year of hard work with the support of our nation’s capitol.


by JULIE CAAN
Best Buddies Wisconsin


Festival City Symphony
Throughout time, music, like friendship, has had the powerful ability to bring people together and January 31st was no exception.

Over 70 Best Buddies students and their families were given the opportunity to attend Festival City Symphony’s Sunday concert series.  Participants were treated to an afternoon filled with beautiful music thanks to a donation from our friends at the Festival City Orchestra.

Buddies, Peer Buddies, and their families were taken on a musical journey through each section of the orchestra in “Benjamin Britten’s Young People’s Guide to the Orchestra.”

“They enjoyed the music, the narration and the environment of a formal classical music concert,” said Bethany Perkins.

Perkins is a member of the Best Buddies Associate Board and serves on the Advisory Board’s Public Relations committee.

Perkins’ values are reflected in her personal life and in her work life as a member of the Manpower Corporation. The Corporation’s Foundation continues to be a generous supporter of Best Buddies Wisconsin through its financial and volunteer efforts.

“Young professionals have the opportunity to do their part to give these kids new experiences with which they may not otherwise have the chance to get involved,” said Perkins, “Once you are touched by an individual with a disability, it is impossible to not want to do all you can to ensure they are treated with the respect and dignity they deserve.”

Best Buddies Wisconsin is thankful to all of its generous supporters who make special days like this possible.  In the end, it all goes back to one thing: friendship.

“You don't need to be a hero to make a difference; you just need to be a friend,” concluded Perkins.


by JULIE CAAN
Best Buddies Wisconsin


Contest winner, Ali Miner with a buddy after a fundraiser in Milwaukee.
For Best Buddies International's "Join Our Global Movement" contest winner Ali Miner, having a Best Buddy provided not just a friendship, but a whole new outlook on life...

Saying ‘good-bye’ to summer and going back to school can be a difficult transition for anyone, but imagine starting over at a new school, in a new town, where you know no one.

Unfortunately, it’s a feeling 17 year old Ali Miner knows all too well.  Originally from Iowa, she then moved with her family to Florida and is now starting over in Wisconsin.

After taking her mom’s advice, Miner decided to join her Oconomowoc high school Best Buddies chapter as a way to meet new people.

“The friendships I have made through the club are always going to be real friendships, no matter what,” said Miner.

After serving as her chapter’s treasurer, Miner was selected as the president.  As president, she was given the opportunity to attend the annual Best Buddies summer Leadership Conference in Indiana. Little did she know that the conference would end up giving her a whole new perspective on life.

“Until the leadership conference, I didn’t think that any of this was having a big impact on my life, but then everything totally changed.  I began to realize what really counts.  When you’re going through the day, it’s just so busy that it’s easy to forget about the little things like friendship and who is really there for you,” Miner said.

After listening to speakers and sharing stories with “Buddies” from around the world, Miner became inspired to start living the Best Buddies mission in her own life.  One speaker in particular got her thinking about a word that is frequently miss-used in today’s society.

“A lot of people use the ‘R’ word without really thinking about it. I don’t think people are educated enough on the meaning of that word and they need to understand what it is they’re saying and in what context,” Miner said.

So on March 3rd, her chapter will “Spread the Word to End the Word” by taking pledges and passing out cards with more appropriate words to say.  March marks the start of Best Buddies Month.  It is the hope of Best Buddies everywhere that through tolerance and awareness, hurtful language will come to an end. But for Miner, the best part about Best Buddies is just that, having a buddy.

 “Just today I was feeling down in the dumps and Lauren [Miner’s Buddy] came up to me and gave me a hug.  She made my whole day.  She may not know it, but just seeing her smile at me makes everything better,” Miner said.

By participating in the ‘Our Global Movement’ campaign and sharing how Best Buddies has inspired her, Ali’s story has earned her a trip to Miami to meet Best Buddies founder, Anthony Kennedy Shriver.

Way to go Ali! It is people like you that make Best Buddies an extraordinary organization across the globe. And remember, through friendship, kind words, or just a smile, anything is possible.  You may just make someone’s day.

If you would like to share your victory or learn more about Best Buddies, log onto the Best Buddies International’s website and start writing!  Follow Best Buddies on Facebook or Twitter to learn more about weekly topics and contest winners.

We are Best Buddies: Join our Global Movement!

facebook.com/bestbuddies | twitter.com/bestbuddiesintl | blog.bestbuddies.org


by LISA WEISMAN

Kari and Andy
Best Buddies Wisconsin congratulates Kari Dolan, Middleton High School graduate; Whitney Kelly, Homestead High School graduate and Margaret (Maggie) Mills, Nicolet High School graduate on being the first recipients of the We See You Award.

This Award is the brain child of Best Buddies Wisconsin and the Ziemann Foundation as a means of recognizing exceptional students within a Best Buddies High School Chapter.

The award is open to both mainstream students and students with intellectual disabilities who are active members of their chapter, show exceptional commitment to their Best Buddies' friendship and to the inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities.

Kari Dolan has been a member of Best Buddies for three years and was president of her chapter for the past two years.   In her application, Kari commented that after her first chapter party she knew she would love the club and the people involved.

“I instantly made 20 new friends who were all giving me high-fives the next day at school and asking me when the next outing would be”, she said. Kari and her buddy Andy were featured in the 2009 Best Buddies calendar and were also featured in an article in the Middleton Times-Tribune last summer.

In his letter of recommendation, Kari's teacher commented that “I have lost count of the number of times I have teared up after seeing the Best Buddies caroling, carving pumpkins, bowling, or just hanging out in the cafeteria during lunch.  She and the other members of Best Buddies are an inspiration to us all.”

Kari plans to attend Winona State and major in nursing.

Whitney and Jim
Whitney Kelly has been a Best Buddies chapter member at Homestead for the past three years and has served as both secretary and president of the Club.

She and her buddy, Jim, have been matched for the past two years and talk daily at school, on the phone or on the computer.  Whitney attended the Best Buddies International Leadership Conference at Indiana University last summer where she was inspired by the immense role Best Buddies plays all over the globe.

She was featured in a “Good Kids Doing Good Things” column in the Ozaukee News Graphic and Youth of the Month from the Mequon-Thiensville Optimist Club.  She plans to attend Boston College in the fall and pursue a career in law.

Margaret (Maggie) Mills has been a member of the Nicolet High School Best Buddies chapter for the past two years and served as president for the past year.  She will be attending the College of Charleston in the fall and hopes to become a special education teacher.  One of Maggie's advisors gave her the highest praise, hoping that “my nine-year-old daughter will someday grow up to be like Maggie”.  Still, Maggie's strongest recommendation came from her buddy who wrote:

Daniel and Magie
“Maggie is always happy to see me.  She is kind, caring and always makes time to visit with me.  Maggie makes my feel happy.  I know Maggie has lots of homework, but she always finds time for me.  She is the best buddy ever.”

The Ziemann Foundation is a private family Foundation with a history of funding projects that promote the inclusion of people with disabilities.  The mission of the foundation is to improve the quality of life for citizens with disabilities in southeastern Wisconsin.

A current focus of the Ziemann Foundation is to promote collaboration between non-profit agencies with similar missions, programs and/or consumers in order to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of each.

Cynthia Linnan, Vice President of the Ziemann Foundation commented: “The Ziemann Foundation has a history of funding pilot projects. We believe this three year grant for the We See You award program will resonate with Best Buddies programs in other states and will be easily replicated, bringing more visibility to the organization and its mission.”  For more information on the Ziemann Foundation, go to www.fsrequests.com/ziemann.

Award winners will each receive a check for $1,000 along with an engraved picture frame to commemorate their accomplishment.  Applications for the 2010 We See You Award will be available in October, 2009 and can be requested by contacting Best Buddies Wisconsin at Wisconsin@bestbuddies.org and putting We See You Award in the subject line.


by WENDY WALKER

Best Buddies Associate Board (Clockwise from Top): Shawn Rolland, Sharif Mansur, Steve Hawthorne, Mary Barnum, Noreen Riley, Meredyth Naramore, Ryan Schultz
Bags, Bag-O, Cornhole… name differences aside, the 2009 Bags & Brews Tournament was an awesome event that brought all attendees together in friendship. Nearly 150 people came to the tournament held on July 15 at Milwaukee's Lakefront Brewery.

Due to fantastic team turn-out and generous individual donations, Best Buddies Wisconsin was able to raise over $1,500. The money from the event will support students who attend Best Buddies International Leadership Conference.

Leadership Conference is an essential part of training chapter leaders to become strong, competent and informed heads of their school's chapter.

The tournament was neck and neck right until the final round. In the end, it came down to a match between two father/son duos. Team Seefeld, Bob and Sam Seefeld, were unstoppable and took first place. Team Harry Bags, Kurt and Kyle Weisman, were noble competitors and secured the second place position.

The winner of the Consolation Bracket was team One Shots, Chad Ashley and Taj Tariq. Congratulations to all the winners!

Team Harry Bags: Kurt Weisman, Kyle Weisman; Team Seefeld: Bob Seefeld, Sam Seefeld
This event was coordinated by the Best Buddies Associate Board. The Associate Board is a sub committee of the Advisory Board, and is made up of young professionals in the Milwaukee area. A special thank you goes to Shawn Rolland, the lead committee member of this event. Great job Shawn and the Associate Board!

Thank you to the organizations that made this event possible: Jack Smith: Shorewest Realtor, Lakefront Brewery, Pizza Shuttle, Enhancing Light: Cosmetic Laser Center, Steve Hawthorne, Vino 100, Stir Crazy, and Buffalo Wild Wings and all those who donated equipment for the event!

YOU CAN GET INVOLVED
If you'd like to participate in the next tournament, please watch our website for the most up to date news about upcoming events.

Have a boards and bags you'd like to let us use for the next tournament? We would love to be able to borrow your set! The more donated sets we have for the day, the smoother the tournament play will be. If you are interested in volunteering your equipment, please e-mail WendyWalker@bestbuddies.org. We will keep your information on file and contact you before the next tournament!

As always, we are constantly looking for volunteers for future committees and events. If you are interested in volunteering your time for projects beyond the Bags & Brews tournament please click the “Get Involved” link located on the top right corner of this site!


by LISA WEISMAN

Scott Haag has a history of philanthropic support in the greater Milwaukee community.  In fact, this fall he'll be honored at a dinner put on by ARC Milwaukee.  Now, we are thrilled to have him as one of our “buddies”!!

Scott has a personal interest in Best Buddies; his son, Tyler is matched with Shawn Rolland on the Best Buddies Associate Board.  As a buddy pair, these two guys really hit it off - they spend a lot of time watching sports, going out to eat and challenging each other at video games.

And, Scott and Tyler are both joining Team Cedar Street/Wisconsin and riding in the Audi Best Buddies Hyannis Port Challenge in Boston on May 30.

Scott attended the Best Buddies Leadership Breakfast in March as a guest of Madeline Borkin, Wonderlic, Inc.  He was so moved by the presentations and the comments made by our buddy pair and parent speaker, he called the office the next morning and said that he wanted to do something for Best Buddies in honor of Madeline.

After a few conversations and phone calls, Madeline indicated that she'd really like to see a college chapter at the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee because of the interest that we've had, the contacts she had at the school and the proximity to the Best Buddies state office.

The rest, as they say, is history!  We've begun to identify advisors for the chapter as well as potential student leaders and plan to begin recruitment for the chapter in the fall.

Scott has an active interest in our economy as well as charity - earlier this year, he offered cash incentives to any of his 75 employees seeking to buy new or used cars - a story which was picked up across the nation!  In addition to ARC, Scott has been involved with the Zoological Society's Foundation for Wildlife Conservation and St. Francis Children's Center. We are grateful to have him as a friend to Best Buddies!

For more information on the chapter at the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee, please contact ryanschultz@bestbuddies.org


The Morning Blend featured Best Buddies Wisconsin on it’s February 20 morning show!  Amy Lofy, Chapter President at Franklin High School, and Christy Glines, Franklin’s Buddy Director did a terrific job representing Best Buddies Wisconsin during an interview with Alison de Castro and Molly Fay.   The girls talked about their experiences with Best Buddies and also plugged BBWI’s upcoming Leadership Breakfast, scheduled for March 3 and sponsored by Manpower.  Amy and Christy are one of the featured buddy pair speakers. Click HERE to see the full interview.

Congratulations to our “Outstanding Chapters of the Year!”

2014 Leadership Conference: Journey to Innovation

Thanks for a Great School Year!

Friendship Profile: Rachel and Mikayla

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