Bloomington, Ind. July 6, 2017—This summer a beloved Best Buddies tradition will return to Bloomington, Indiana as the 28th Annual Best Buddies Leadership Conference: Pass the Torch kicks off on July 21-24. Best Buddies International 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).
The Best Buddies Leadership Conference (BBLC) brings together leaders with and without IDD from middle schools, high schools, colleges, and communities worldwide, providing chapter leaders and ambassadors personalized training that develops the leadership skills needed to organize a Best Buddies chapter. Over 2,200 student leaders, 350 Best Buddies staff, and over 30 guest speakers are expected to attend. Participants from the following countries will also be in attendance: Bolivia, Colombia, Hong Kong, Korea, Macau, Panama and Russia, who will provided valuable insight into the Best Buddies programs abroad.
This year’s Leadership Conference theme is “Pass the Torch” which emphasizes the importance of preparing and empowering the future leaders and advocates of the world with the skills and knowledge to move the mission of equality forward. During the event, individuals will learn, grow and foster a cultural shift in their community for inclusion and acceptance. The conference will celebrate the incredible impact volunteers with and without IDD are making in the world as a result of their leadership. Attendees will receive lessons from global leaders in the disability rights movement; watch inspiring performances; witness moving testimonies; and attend compelling and empowering educational sessions.
“Best Buddies’ global volunteer movement is changing the world for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and creating a more inclusive community,” said David Quilleon, Senior Vice President, Global Mission, State Development & Operations. “These student leaders are the catalyst for all of our programs and I’m excited to see how they leverage our mission of friendship, jobs, and leadership development as agents for social change in their schools and communities.”
Special guests at this year’s Leadership Conference include:
- Anastasia Somoza, Leader in the inclusion revolution and human rights defender
- Daniel Smrokowski, Award-Winning columnist
- Kevin Wanzer, Motivational speaker
- Lauren Potter, Actress
- Madison Walker, Miss Virginia Teen USA
- Marc Mero, Former WCW and WWE wrestling champion and founder of “Champion of Choices”
- Megan Bombgards, A&E Network Born This Way reality show star
- Mikayla Holmgren, The first women with Down syndrome to compete in the Miss Minnesota pageant
- reVoice, Acapella group
In addition to instructional sessions and workshops, attendees will also have the opportunity to participate in many interactive activities, such as leadership development classes and roundtable sessions with global leaders, educational panels comprised of professionals engaged in the disability rights community, movie screenings, and a Friendship Walk, as they connect with experienced student leaders to share tools and techniques for success.
The opening ceremonies (Open to Media) will take place at the Indiana University Auditorium from 8 p.m. – 10 p.m. on Friday, July 21 and will include a welcome address from Anthony K. Shriver, inspiring speeches from Best Buddies participants, moving performances from Marlana VanHoose and Lisa Smith, the annual Best Buddies International program awards, and the inaugural Friendship of the Year Award, which will be presented to Best Buddies supporter Alex and Ani.
The weekend’s festivities will conclude at closing ceremonies (Open to Media) inside the Indiana University Auditorium, 7:30 p.m. – 9 p.m. on Sunday, July 23. The opening and closing ceremonies, as well as the Saturday educational sessions will be streamed at bestbuddies.org/bblc
Attendees will return from BBLC inspired, motivated, and prepared to change the world!
For additional information about the Best Buddies International Leadership Conference, please contact Natalie Siebert, State Director of the Indiana chapter, at NatalieSeibert@bestbuddies.org or 317.436.8440.
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 2,300 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 nearly 50 countries, positively impacting the lives of more than 1.1 million 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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