Buddy Director & Ambassador Sam Smith Speaks at 26th Annual Best Buddies Leadership Conference Closing Ceremonies
The closing ceremonies of the annual Best Buddies Leadership Conference (BBLC) are highly anticipated for anyone who has attended or tuned into this conference in previous years. During BBLC, Buddy Ambassadors of all ages from all across the world use their training to perfect speeches that, for some, seem to have been in the works for years. Only a few Ambassadors are selected to have the honor of sharing their story at the closing ceremonies in front of conference attendees and online viewers from around the world. For Connecticut’s Samuel Smith, this meant speaking in front of the largest BBLC crowd in our organization’s history, with over 1,500 in attendance.
Sam Smith joined Best Buddies in 2011 as a freshman at Ridgefield High School in Ridgefield, CT. He quickly became an avid fan of our programs, and truly dedicated to the mission of Best Buddies. Sam rose to the rank of Buddy Director in 2012, and was trained as a Buddy Ambassador in his sophomore and junior years. After graduating from Ridgefield High in June 2015, Sam traveled with Best Buddies Connecticut to BBLC as our only Ambassador. Program Manager Alexandra Gil, worked closely with Sam throughout the programmatic year at Ridgefield High School and during the conference. Alexandra recalls his story this summer as this:
During Leadership Conference this summer, Sam was one of my first arrivals. He came down to the lounge and hung out with myself and Lauren Potter, a global ambassador and celebrity spokesperson for Best Buddies International. After Sam and I were finished being star stuck, we started to discuss what we both hoped to gain out the conference this year, and Sam mentioned how he hoped that he would get to speak at Closing Ceremonies. Sam wanted to share his experience with Best Buddies with as many people as possible because he knew that his personal story could help further our organization’s mission. I told Sam to advocate for himself this weekend and let the Best Buddies Staff he would be working with know that a personal goal of his was to speak at Closing Ceremonies. Sam smiled at me and nodded his head in approval and said he would do just that.
On Sunday afternoon Sam called me and said “Alex you are going to be so proud of me, I am going to be speaking at tonight’s ceremonies!”. When he came out on that stage he was full of charisma, charm, confidence, pride, and pure joy! When his fellow Best Buddies CT peers cheered, I felt like we were shaking the entire building! He spoke about the leadership opportunities that being a part of Best Buddies “lead” him to. He described the activities he and his fellow chapter members participated in over the past few years. He talked about how the friendships he formed made him happy. Sam’s story may seem like a simple one, but in way that’s what makes it so inspiring. Something as simple as friendship gave Sam the confidence to be the charming, charismatic Best Buddies Ambassador that he is.
Sam’s simple message of how just being a friend can make all the difference in someone’s life, with and without an IDD, reminds Best Buddies participants that what they are doing does make a difference, and that everyone need a friend.
Sam has continued his success by being accepted to Dean’s College in Massachusetts for the Fall 2015 semester as a full-time Communications Major.