Message from our State Director
In 2017, Best Buddies saw its greatest growth and success in its 15-year history in Iowa. From increased friendships to new community partnerships to successful special events, the momentum across the state is clear. Iowa values friendship and leadership and is committed to providing opportunities for individuals with and without disabilities to dream and achieve those dreams.
Growth in our friendship chapters continued to increase at a rapid pace. We added a total of 8 new chapters in 2018 including new middle school, high school, and college programs. Thanks to these new chapters as well as the success of our existing chapters, our total participation grew to an all-time of over 2400 students and adults involved in their schools and company programs. We look forward to continuing to add new chapters each month in 2018 to expand our Mission and impact.
Leadership Training is an important pillar of our work, and 2017 saw great success in the number of ambassadors trained to speak in their schools, communities and at our special events about their aspirations and personal experiences. In addition to ambassador training, we brought more than 70 chapter leaders and advisors to our annual Leadership Conference in Indiana in July. Iowa was honored again to have one of our buddy ambassadors speak to the entire audience of more than 2500 attendees at closing ceremonies. Jack Marren from Johnston High School brought down the house with his “Moonboy” speech and had quickly become well-known across the country.
Our community partners continue to be critical to achieving success through their time, talents and financial resources. We were very pleased to partner with Hy-Vee to move our annual Chef Challenge gala to the Ron Pearson Center thanks to their support. In addition to renewed support from longtime partners Sammons Financial and Aerotek/TEKsystems, our participants benefited from elevated relationships with organizations like Purcell Printing, Knights of Columbus and West Bank. We are thrilled to see how new partnerships with area businesses will benefit the experience for our state in 2018.
Special events continue to play a critical role in Iowa as we raise financial support for increasing our organization’s visibility and impact of friendship and inclusion. Our Friendship Walks in April and May kicked off the trend of meeting and exceeding our special event goals, as we exceeded our revenue goals by more than 20%. Another successful golf outing in June was followed by a new Bike Ride event in August that looks to become a tradition for future years. Finally, it all led up to our Chef Challenge. With more restaurants, sponsors, attendees and auction items, this event MORE than met our goals as we raised nearly $40,000 over our event goal. It continues to be our most visible and successful community engagement opportunity for Iowa. We can’t wait to see how it grows again in the coming year.
Finally, none of any of this success would be possible without the support of our dedicated volunteers, staff and board leadership. Without the tireless efforts and commitment of our student leaders, advisors, programs team, committee members and advisory board, we wouldn’t be able to do what we love, which is to make friendship and leadership opportunities possible for all. However, our job is not finished. As long as there are schools and individuals in our community who need our programs across the state, we must all continue to raise the bar and do more each day to make their dreams a reality.
I look forward to continuing to partner with you to make 2018 even better for Best Buddies in Iowa.