Bret Fleming and “The Buddy Tree” (Best Buddies Anthem) music video
Bret Fleming is a Best Buddies in New Jersey Advisory Board Member and a Best Buddies Global Ambassador with William’s Syndrome. Our mission and vision of inclusion are ingrained in Bret. He genuinely loves volunteering with Best Buddies to share his abilities with whomever he meets to prove that everyone should have a seat at the table and their voices heard.
Bret’s story and Best Buddies’ story run parallel. While Anthony K. Shriver was creating pillars of inclusion, Bret was forging his very own path to inclusion in his community. It is his passion! During his formative years, the Flemings fought for Bret’s inclusion in his school and local community. He was included in his neighborhood school with supports, played on sports teams and was part of the school band from the 4th grade through high school. He even had a part-time job.
In 2002, Bret and his family fought in court to ensure he was allowed to continue his high school education until he was 21 years old. The family was victorious, and Bret was able to participate in his high school graduation. He received a standing ovation from the graduating class and the audience!
Thanks to Bret’s determination and courage to advocate for himself and his peers, special education students in New Jersey can participate in their graduation ceremonies with their peers.
In 2002, Bret began attending Berkshire Hills Music Academy in Massachusetts and had his first introduction to Best Buddies after joining the Mt. Holyoke College Best Buddies Chapter. From then on, Bret experienced the meaning of true ‘inclusion’. He forged friendships with local college students, and in the years from 2003 to 2009, Bret became an advocate for himself and everyone with a disability. He performed at the Best Buddies Challenge: Hyannis Port event and then eventually with the Berkshire Hills Music Academy Performance Troupe, whom Anthony K. Shriver dubbed ‘the Best Buddies Friendship Band.’
After returning to New Jersey in 2009, Bret joined the Best Buddies Chapter at Rutgers University and has maintained a friendship with his buddy, Alex, to this day. Bret and Alex consider their friendship natural, like any others!
Bret also secured a part-time job in his vocation of music! Then in 2009, Bret and other individuals with Williams Syndrome formed a band. The Kandoo Band performed Ability Awareness Assemblies for schools and also performed at Best Buddies events across the country through 2015.
In 2015, Bret attended the annual Best Buddies Leadership Conference and worked on promoting a new Best Buddies Chapter in New Jersey. Finally, in 2018, the Flemings heard a Best Buddies Chapter had formed in New Jersey, and his chapter connection was re-ignited. About four years ago, Bret’s mother Lea mentioned to Bret and one of his music mentors that he should try to write a song for Best Buddies. Some time passed, and in 2020, COVID-19 happened and prolonged the process even further. In 2021 while Bret was working with his current music producer, Gabriel “Costa” Gomes, his mother brought up the song idea, again. One night she couldn’t get song lyrics out of her head and quickly jumped out of bed to write them down. Shortly after, Bret took those lyrics into the studio to finish the song with Gabriel, and “The Buddy Tree” was born!