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Local high school creates lasting friendships with Best Buddies club

Local high school create lasting friendships with Best Buddies club

Lunchtime in the school cafeteria is social time, bonding time, friendship time. It's a very special time for one group of students. They've sometimes felt isolated and not included. But now, they have Best Buddies, too.

"I love it. I love hanging out with Chandler and going bowling with everyone else and, you know, meeting new people," said Gulf Breeze High Schooler Carson Reeder.

Best Buddies is a national program that pairs individuals with special needs with other members of the community so that they can share experiences just like everyone else. The club at Gulf Breeze High School teams typical teens with their peers in Exceptional Student Education classes.

"Isaiah's been my Buddy this year. We both love sports and we both go to all the sports games, normally together," Best Buddies President Katie Player said.

They sit with their buddies at lunch. They help them with their special projects. Most importantly, they include them in the regular activities that they enjoy. Sometimes that means going an extra mile perhaps or lending a supportive hand.

"I like Best Buddies. I like going to the baseball games and the LaCrosse team too," Isaiah said.

There was a time when Isaiah wouldn't have been at a game or if he had been, he would have been standing alone on the sidelines.

"I think that he's gotten to experience a lot of things that he wouldn't have if Best Buddies weren't a thing here. Like, I know before this year, he never would go sit in the student section at football games. He just wouldn't do it," Katie explained. "And, I was like, 'Isaiah, next game, next game you're going to come sit with all of us.' And at the end of the season, he was up in the student section with us every game."

"If you're the big Buddy, just encourage your Best Buddy to do their best," said Billy Burr.

That encouragement goes a long way, and the students agree that this friendship is a two-way street. The teachers and the club sponsor see a difference in all of the students. They see friendships that know no bounds, only acceptance that sees no differences, only shared smiles.

"I see our kids just blossom when they have friends that really accept them. And it's a friendship, I think, that each person gets something from it," Best Buddies Sponsor Darcy Truax.

Angels In Our Midst is sponsored by Nemours Children's Specialty Care.

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