Winter Springs celebrates inclusion

Best Buddies members at the Best Buddies Friendship Ball stop to take a picture.

Riley Hazel

Best Buddies members at the Best Buddies Friendship Ball stop to take a picture.

Riley Hazel, Editor-in-Chief

This story was originally published in the fourth issue of The Bear Truth (March 10, 2020).

Best Buddies, an organization that provides one-to-one friendships for those with and without IDD (Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities), has proven to be a club that celebrates and spreads the message of inclusion at Winter Springs High School.

Within a year, the Best Buddies Chapter has hosted countless meetings and “parties” for its members with activities and themes involved. One being a Kick-Off Party for the annual Best Buddies Friendship Walk.

Aubrie Commer, Program Manager for Community Engagement for Best Buddies Central Florida welcomed guests and members through a moving PowerPoint. 

The Friendship Walk is an annual event held on Saturday, May 2 from 8 to 12 pm in Downtown Orlando. Chapters across Central Florida get together to spread the message of inclusion and fundraise for the organization while making their way around Lake Eola.

Chapter Secretary, Olivia Song, and Chapter President, Riley Hazel, served refreshments and snacks as members listened to the stories of various buddies and why they walk. 

Peer Buddy, Daniel Ramos said, “The party was fun. I enjoyed hearing the stories of the buddy pairs and was surprised to hear about how there is a chapter at Lyman High School. Their friendship appears so genuine. In addition to the videos, I had a great time playing UNO with my buddy.”

Each year, after the recruitment season ends, the current members are matched with a buddy (one with IDD). Throughout the year, buddy pairs maintain a friendship by attending various chapter activities and hanging out outside of school hours. 

The idea behind Best Buddies is to ensure that people with a disability are not left behind. At times, those with IDD feel excluded. They are even seen as outsiders among their peers since their appearance may be different from the average student at school. They are often treated with disrespect and have offensive and derogatory terms aimed at them. 

To counteract this problem, March is Best Buddies Month. According to, “This month represents a time for our participants to honor their friendships, share their goals of inclusion with their community, and spread awareness about the Best Buddies mission.”