Valley High School Designs Best Buddies Jerseys for Iowa Wolves
Des Moines, IA, Jan. 18, 2024 — Inclusion has never looked so good.
For the second consecutive year, students from Best Buddies in Iowa, the state office of Best Buddies International, a nonprofit dedicated to creating opportunities for friendship, employment, leadership development and inclusive living for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD), designed jerseys for the Iowa Wolves of the NBA G-League to wear on their “Disability Empowerment Night,” which took place on Dec. 15. This year, the honor went to the Best Buddies Friendship chapter at Valley High School in West Des Moines.
Over the summer, representatives from the Wolves reached out to Ella Troen, the Valley High School chapter president, to present her with this opportunity. Troen organized two meetings with her chapter and Wolves representatives to design the jerseys.
“We designed the jerseys with the words ‘empowerment,’ ‘fearless’ and ‘brave’ in mind,” Troen said. “Getting to see our work on their jerseys was really cool.”
Troen hopes her chapter instills empowerment, fearlessness and bravery in all its members.
“Our members are very accepting and welcoming,” Troen emphasized. “Our [members with IDD] know they are just as important as everyone else, and they know what they say and how they feel matters. We all hang out like we would with anyone else, and I think that is one of the best things about Best Buddies.”
The team then incorporated the designs from the chapter into the jersey. On the front, the word “Wolves” was written by one of the members. The sides of the jerseys and shorts are adorned with other elements of the chapter’s art, including images of wolves and words like “family,” “powerful” and “bravery.”
Once the jerseys were complete, representatives from the Wolves returned to the high school to show the chapter the finished product. Troen’s reaction summed up the chapter’s response well:
“It was like, ‘Oh my gosh, they’re wearing something we made,’” Troen said. “The jerseys are really cool.”
The Wolves then surprised the chapter with tickets to their game against the Cleveland Charge. 18 participants from Valley High School, alongside an additional 100 Best Buddies members from the community, attended the game alongside Best Buddies in Iowa board members. The Valley High School chapter was recognized at halftime for bringing a culture of inclusion to the Des Moines community.
“We were thrilled when the Best Buddies chapter at Valley High School expressed an interest in collaborating on the project,” Chip Albright, the vice president of business and marketing development for the Iowa Wolves, said. “It was so much fun working together as a big team on it.”
The Iowa Wolves have been longtime supporters of Best Buddies in Iowa. Previously, the Wolves hosted “Best Buddies Nights,” participated in Iowa’s Best Buddies Friendship Walk and Champion of the Year Gala and hosted a showing of the basketball film “Champions,” which starred Best Buddies Global Ambassadors Joshua Felder and Madison Tevlin.
“The night was a rousing success, and I am so proud of the Valley High School chapter for representing Best Buddies so well,” Ted Rives IV, the director of development for Best Buddies in Iowa, said. “I am also grateful for the longstanding support Best Buddies in Iowa has received from the Iowa Wolves. They have significantly contributed to our mission of promoting friendship and inclusion statewide.”
For the Valley High School chapter, this event was the highlight of the year.
“Putting in hard work for your chapter pays off: I never expected anything like this to happen,” Troen concluded. “It was really great for our members to see that they are included, that what they do is important and that they are as special and important as everyone else.”
About Best Buddies
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, leadership development and inclusive living for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). Founded in 1989 by Anthony K. Shriver, Best Buddies is a vibrant organization that has grown from one original chapter to nearly 3,000 middle school, high school, and college chapters worldwide. Today, Best Buddies’ 11 formal programs — Elementary Schools, Middle Schools, High Schools, Colleges, Citizens, e-Buddies®, Jobs, Ambassadors, Promoters, Transitions and Inclusive Living— engage participants in each of the 50 states and in 46 countries, positively impacting the lives of nearly one 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 or connect with us via Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.
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