2018 was an incredible year for Best Buddies in Arizona with a focus on one word: impact. We hired a new Program Manager, expanded each of our programs, and surpassed all event goals, allowing us to reach more individuals in the great State of Arizona than ever.
In March, we held the 7th Annual Best Buddies Friendship Walk, with over 1,200 walkers, families, and community members gathering to celebrate friendship. Thanks to our incredible teams, sponsors, individual donors, committee members, and volunteers, we were able to raise over $81,000 — our highest fundraising total to date!
In our Friendship program, we focused on expanding and increasing our impact, particularly into elementary schools. Over the course of the year, we supported more than 2,100 individuals in 43 friendship programs at 4 colleges, 28 high schools, nine middle schools, and two elementary schools, with a total of three new school chapters opening in 2018.
In July, Arizona represented in a big way at the Best Buddies annual Best Buddies Leadership Conference at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana. With 34 student leaders and advisors, as well as 5 Ambassadors, attending this three-day leadership event, each person left inspired and ready to make a bigger impact in their schools and communities.
After the success of Leadership Conference, our Ambassador program also saw significant growth, training nine new Best Buddies Ambassadors, including our first two ambassadors without IDD.
This year’s Spirit of Friendship Gala was extra special not only because we celebrated the 15th year of the event, but it also marked our inaugural Champion of the Year campaign! Over the course of 10 weeks, nine incredible Champion candidates — along with their Mission Partners — worked tirelessly and enthusiastically to raise funds for Best Buddies in Arizona. And raise funds they did: Our Champions combined to raise over $187,000, with the event itself exceeding $300,000 for the first time in 5 years! But outside of the numbers, the true beauty that was seen throughout the campaign were the friendships that flourished between the Champion candidates and their Mission Partners.
Following the gala, we were excited to host our 9th Annual Buddy Prom, sponsored by our incredible and generous Advisory Board members, Kathy Porter and Jim Barker. At this truly inclusive and fun evening, over 1,000 students gathered to dance the night away with their buddies.
We ended the year by launching of our Citizens Program, which gave us the chance to reunite Jen Chase and Ashlee Coffman as our first match! With a large amount of interest in the program, we plan on making many more matches like Jen and Ashlee in 2019.
On behalf of our Advisory Board and the staff at Best Buddies Arizona, I would like to thank you for your support of friendship, inclusion, and a kinder world. Because of you, we were able to take a glimpse into Arizona’s exciting future and deliver a call to action to those who will make an impact and move our mission forward. Here’s to 2019!