By Julie McCay Turner
That Bedford High School’s delegates were asked to move to the head of the line walking into Saturday evening’s international convocation at Indiana University Bloomington celebrating the 25th anniversary of Best Buddies made perfect sense to chapter president Ben Driscoll because “B” is at the beginning of the alphabet.
Although BHS had recently won Massachusetts’ Best Buddies chapter award, when Bedford’s name was called as the Overall Most Outstanding High School Chapter of the Year, Driscoll’s jaw dropped. “We thought we were just walking out there as one of the nominees,” he said.
Best Buddies is about “one-to-one friendship, not mentoring,” stressed Driscoll. “and [the award] is a result of everyone’s work,” he said; “I want to make sure that everyone gets credit.”
A Short History of Best Buddies in Bedford
Bedford High School’s Best Buddies program has prospered since it was started by Karen Frank in 1995. Thirty-four of Bedford’s 35 LABBB students has a Best Buddy, who is a mainstream Bedford High School student. Many of Bedford’s mainstream Buddies began in the PALS program at John Glenn Middle School, or have relatives who are intellectually or physically disabled. The organization also boasts more than 100 associate members who attend events and provide occasional support.
Last year’s chapter president Cassie Baker provided important guidance for this year’s club according to 10-year faculty advisor Karen Santos. “She had siblings who were part of the program,” said Santos, “and that helped all of us to become the chapter we are today.”
A Host of Participants and Activities in 2013-2014
Editor’s Note: Additional event photos are on their way; please check back soon
Driscoll reported there was a 10-member Officer Core in 2013-2014, not just “your regular, cliché four officers.” Officer Core members, who were tasked with coordinating events and creating publicity, included two sophomores who were learning the organizational ropes as Officer Aides. Officer Core members were Vice President Gabrielle Labitt, Secretary Josh Blakeley, Treasurer Faith Kim, Event Coordinators Arianna Dines and Indigo Fox Tree McGrath, Bulletin Board Coordinator Savannah Fox Tree McGrath, Photographer Christian McNulty, and Officer Aides Taylor Anderson and Lauren Winn. Arianna Dines will serve as the 2014-2015 Chapter President.
Communication with parents of the LABB students was one of the keys to the 2013-2014 success. “You need that communication, that feedback from [the parents],” said Driscoll. “They want their kids to have a real high school social experience.” E-vites for after-school programs at the high school, bowling parties, movie nights, and dances were sent to notify families about activities. Theresa Soldan offered LABBB students the opportunity to be in a play, The Showcase.
Members of the Bedford Chapter attended the Best Buddies of Massachusetts prom at Easton’s Oliver Ames High School. “The girls got glammed up, had their hair and make-up done” said Driscoll, “and [the guys] got tuxedos.” It was an experience that many LABBB parents thought their children would never have.
For “Spread the Word to End the Word” day in March, bright red T-shirts designed by senior Lauren Winn offered plenty of adjectives that begin with the letter “R” to replace the word “retarded.”Radiant, Righteous, Respectful, Resilient, Rad, Relevant, Remarkable, Reliable and Regal surround the imperative, “Pick One.”
Best Buddies’ Global Ambassador Lauren Potter who portrays the character Becky Jackson, a cheerleader with Down syndrome on the TV show Glee, visited BHS to celebrate the chapter’s State Award. As a surprise she brought Best Buddies’ founder and CEO Anthony Kennedy Shriver with her; Shriver‘s praise of the Bedford chapter as a ‘shining example of what Best Buddies is all about’ was a thrill for all.
The chapter chose to include a video with its application for national recognition so it would stand out, but Bedford’s Buddies had just 10 days to pull the finished product together. With the help of videographer and editor Mary Kalb, a rising senior at BHS, a stunning two-part video was readied on time. An eloquent description of the Chapter, some of its participants and its community partners, working on the video fostered mutual admiration among all those involved. Since the filming, Mary talks about the amazing individuals she filmed and the outstanding work of the BHS chapter, and Ben is eloquent in his praise of Mary’s good humor, patience and video skills.
Ben Driscoll, Chapter President
As President of the Class of 2014, Ben Driscoll initially thought he might not be Best Buddies’ Chapter President this year on account of his schedule. Nor did he plan to win the Massachusetts Chapter of the Year award, let alone the national honor.
Ben has been an outstanding chapter president, according to faculty advisor Santos, “He knows how to delegate, and he knows how to handle situations, “she said, “He’s just good at what he does.”
Heading to Elon University in North Carolina, Driscoll plans to major in strategic communications, in preparation for an eventual career in public relations.
Kudos from parents and school administrators are rolling in:
- Superintendent Jon Sills: Amazing! Congrats!
- BHS Principal Henry Turner: BHS Best Buddies is one of our largest and most active clubs at BHS. In speaking with students all of the participants benefit and grow from this program. Regardless of accolades, I am proud that we have such a thriving Best Buddies program at our school. This award is well deserved.
- Assistant Principal Christine Larrimore: WOW!!!! Congratulations and thank you for your time year after year to advise this club and allow students to have these wonderful experiences that will shape their lives :)
- LABBB Collaborative’s Executive Director Patric Barbieri blogged about Bedford’s award. Click here to read his comments.
- Ann Guay: As a family who has experienced first-hand just how exceptional the Bedford Best Buddies Program at BHS is, it is thrilling to see them receive the National recognition they deserve. Brian was so lucky to have Ben as a Best Buddy.
About Best Buddies International
Best Buddies® is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to establishing a global volunteer movement that creates opportunities for one-to-one friendships, integrated employment and leadership development for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Founded in 1989 by Anthony K. Shriver, Best Buddies is a vibrant organization that has grown from one original chapter to more than 1,700 middle school, high school, and college chapters worldwide. Today, Best Buddies’ eight formal programs — Middle Schools, High Schools, Colleges, Citizens, e-Buddies® , Jobs, Ambassadors, and Promoters — engage participants in each of the 50 states and in over 50 countries, positively impacting the lives of more than 800,000 people with and without disabilities around the world. In many cases, as a result of their involvement with Best Buddies, people with intellectual and developmental disabilities secure rewarding jobs, live on their own, become inspirational leaders, and make lifelong friendships. For more information, please visit www.bestbuddies.org , www.facebook.com/bestbuddies or www.twitter.com/bestbuddies