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The student news site of Hagerty High School

The BluePrint Online

The student news site of Hagerty High School

The BluePrint Online

Best Buddies participates in annual Friendship Walk

Members+of+Best+Buddies+and+Fashion+Club+celebrate+with+handmade+bracelets+before+the+beginning+of+the+Friendship+Walk.+This+event+brought+together+Best+Buddies+clubs+from+all+over+Central+Florida.
photo by Lia Miller
Members of Best Buddies and Fashion Club celebrate with handmade bracelets before the beginning of the Friendship Walk. This event brought together Best Buddies clubs from all over Central Florida.

On Saturday, April 27, members of Best Buddies clubs from across Central Florida gathered in Lake Eola Park before taking a walk around the lake side by side. This event, known as the Friendship Walk, brought clubs, businesses and individuals together to set up tents, dance to music, play games and of course, walk.

According to the event’s official website, the Friendship Walk occurs in locations all over the world to raise funds and awareness for inclusion of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Hagerty’s Best Buddies chapter has participated in it for nearly as long as they have existed.

“This is my third year going,” Best Buddies president Madison Swan said. “My freshman year there wasn’t a Friendship Walk because of COVID, which is really sad. But sophomore year I went, and it was the most amazing experience. So I wanted to go again.”

Best Buddies members dance to warm up. Even before the walk itself began, there was music, performances, and speeches. (photo by Lia Miller)

The first members arrived just before 8 a.m., and check-in began at 9 a.m.. Most of the participants had registered online, so after checking in and receiving a wristband that granted them access to the food and activities, students and adults explored the variety of booths, posed for photos, met up with old friends and made new ones with members of other Best Buddies chapters. The walk itself started at 10 a.m. after a round of speeches and performances.

“I really loved the walk [around the lake],” member Kiera McDermott said. “It was really fun: talking with everyone, meeting new people, just having a good time.”

Fashion Club also joined the walk, attending the event and handing out bracelets as a show of support, a gesture  Swan appreciated and hopes others will continue.

“This year we were able to raise over $1,200, which was able to get us a tent [to gather under before the walk began]. We were really proud about that because even though the money doesn’t go to us, it helps the cause that we all care about,” Swan said.

The club celebrates at the end of the walk around Lake Eola. (photo by Lia Miller)

These funds go primarily towards the Jobs and Community Living programs run by the international Best Buddies organization. The Jobs program specifically focuses on providing employment opportunities for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, while the Community Living program supports finding inclusive areas for them to live.

Since seniors make up most of the club leadership, younger members will take up the mantle next school year. McDermott will be the next president, Dylan Comer will be the vice president, and Collin Flynn will be the treasurer.

As future president, McDermott looks forward to expanding Hagerty’s chapter and impacting even more people.

“I’m excited about planning events, getting to know everyone more [and] getting to be not just a part of Best Buddies, but lead it too,” McDermott said.

The club welcomes new members, and support from students, other clubs and the Central Florida community at their events.

“I’d say to anyone who reads [this] article, join Best Buddies next year,” Swan said. “It’s a great club.”

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Lia Miller
Lia Miller, Opinions Editor
Lia Miller is a sophomore at Hagerty High School and this is her first year on staff. Lia enjoys reading, writing, and listening to music. She also does cross country and track and field.
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