27th Annual Best Buddies International Leadership Conference Inspires Thousands of Student Leaders in Bloomington, Indiana
Presented by the A&E Network
Bloomington, IN (July 26, 2016) – Over 2,300 student leaders, volunteers, and staff members from Best Buddies International’s programs around the world participated in the 27th Annual Best Buddies International Leadership Conference: ALL FOR BEST BUDDIES presented by the A&E Network, July 22-25 at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana. The weekend offered attendees new ideas to share with their chapters back home, networking opportunities, and most importantly: lasting friendships.
Best Buddies is a nonprofit 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 (IDD).
This year’s conference was “All for Best Buddies,” a theme that emphasized the importance of commitment and dedication to the Best Buddies’ mission, and allowed attendees to engage with their peers from around the world. The conference brought together student leaders from Best Buddies middle schools, high schools, colleges and promoter chapters from around the globe; and featured a fantastic conference opening performance by Best Buddies participant Lisa Smith, who performed a sign-language rendition of Shakira’s “Try Everything.” Smith also was awarded with the organization’s “Spirit of Courage” award during the conference.
A drumline surprised the audience and ushered onto the stage Best Buddies International Founder and Chairman, Anthony K. Shriver, who spoke about the Best Buddies’ mission. He explained “All for Best Buddies” means “when we say All for Best Buddies what we’re really saying is ‘All for Lisa.” In his opening speech, Shriver reminded the audience that the Best Buddies mission is to bring the same opportunities to the Best Buddies’ participants that everyone else has. Shriver then honored Lisa Smith with the Spirit of Courage Award, which is presented to an outstanding Buddy Ambassador on behalf of their work to further the Best Buddies mission of empowering and advocating for those within the IDD community.
Some memorable moments from the conference included a special duet performance between Marlana VanHoose and Brittany Maier; a Hollywood panel with “Born This Way” Executive Producer Jon Murray, and Actresses Jaime Brewer, and Lauren Potter, who discussed the growing IDD population on television; a motivational speech and Q&A session with former NFL player Tony Richardson; A screening of the documentary The Family Next Door; a Friendship Walk and a Rio de Janeiro themed carnival; A performance by Rapper Kid Quill; and an educational workshop with Shasta Nelson, friendship expert and author.
The 2016 Best Buddies Leadership Conference concluded with a heart-warming and moving Closing Ceremonies. Best Buddies Jobs participants Paul Brooks received the Jobs Program Participant Award. “I am honored to receive the Jobs Program Participant of the Year Award.” Brooks said. “I was excited to be the first Jobs participant to be hired at the Bellagio Hotel (MGM International).”
The Best Buddies Leadership Conference inspired and galvanized the students and volunteers, they witnessed the positive changes being made across the globe and the ways their friendships have changed lives; they are leaving even more motivated to make the world a more inclusive place for people with IDD.
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 1,900 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 900,000 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, facebook.com/bestbuddies or twitter.com/bestbuddies.
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