The Signal

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Monday May 20th

TCNJ hosts Best Buddies Friendship Walk to foster inclusion on campus

<p><em>Best Buddy President Elizabeth Mancini and two Best Buddy members (Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Mancini).</em></p>

Best Buddy President Elizabeth Mancini and two Best Buddy members (Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Mancini).

By Parisa Burton
Staff Writer

Best Buddies, a nonprofit organization on campus aimed at fostering meaningful friendships between people with and without intellectual and developmental disabilities, joined 50,000 people worldwide in the Friendship Walk on April 28. 

The Friendship Walk is the leading event in the country to foster inclusion and empowerment among people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, taking place at schools, workplaces and communities. 

The College raised over $31,000 this year through the help of their team members and supporters. Anyone can make a general donation to the College’s chapter through the Team page or donate under specific members, contributing to their standing. The top five individuals received a prize basket at the Friendship Walk for their contribution.

“We exceeded our $25,000 fundraising goal this year,” said Jess Lazer, senior secondary special education and English major and Best Buddies vice president. “I believe we were successful because of our hardworking e-board and close working relationship with Best Buddies staff.”

Cameron Price, co-chair of the College’s Best Buddies chapter and Career and Community Studies Program student, was this year’s top walker, raising $10,400.

“This money will support chapters all over the state to create ones as passionate and strong as ours is,” said Elizabeth Mancini, Best Buddies president and senior English and elementary and special education major. “It will also help start new chapters in high schools and colleges across the state.”

The walk began outside the Brower Student Center and included interactive experiences like a bouncy house, DJ, dunk tank, food, a silent auction, volleyball and other activities. 

The Friendship Walk is Best Buddies' biggest event, as it aims to create worldwide inclusiveness for the 200 million people with IDD through its donation initiative which creates real and measurable change (Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Mancini).

“I’m most excited about the dunk tank and seeing all my friends come out and talking to new people,” said Douglas Mitchell, junior sports management major and Best Buddies member. 

People enjoyed the beautiful weather as they followed the 15-minute, wheelchair accessible route around campus. The walk was open to the public, allowing diverse groups to come together to support the organization’s mission of ending the social, physical and economic isolation of people with IDD. According to Mancini, there were nearly 500 people in attendance this year. 

“Opening this event to the public allowed us to highlight the TCNJ chapter and promote inclusion beyond the TCNJ community,” Mancini said. “A goal of ours this year was to include local businesses, Best Buddies Chapters and other organizations passionate about our mission.”

According to Mancini, the money raised will not only help to create more chapters, but also support people with IDD in getting jobs, thereby making New Jersey a more inclusive and embracing state.

The College’s Deaf Hearing Connection Club was a co-sponsor for this year’s event and was invited to come out and walk.

“Our club also preaches about diversity and inclusion, so we thought why not support [Best Buddies] and see what awareness this event can bring?” said Alyssa Genao, a deaf education and iSTEM major.  

Inviting people from far and wide was integral to the success of this year's walk as it promoted greater support for people with IDD on campus and beyond.

“Opening the event up to the public allows for people to learn about the school and organization which is great awareness for people with disabilities,” said Daniela Rodriguez, a senior deaf education and Spanish major. 

There are two types of Best Buddy members; buddy pairs and associate members. The first involves matching students with and without disabilities together to foster genuine friendships that extend beyond organizational events. The second type of member is not paired with any student but still attends events to build relationships and support its mission.

Best Buddies holds bi-weekly social events on Wednesdays at 12:30 in the Education Building. They hold larger events throughout the academic year including themed parties, a ball dance and talent show. You can learn more about the College’s chapter on their Instagram page.

The Friendship Walk is their biggest event, as it aims to create worldwide inclusiveness for the 200 million people with IDD through its donation initiative which creates real and measurable change.

“It invites friends from in and outside of the school, and families to come together to see what we all have in common,” said Ryan Lavelle, a junior arts and music major and Career Community Studies Program student. 


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