Organization walks for inclusion

Graham Hill, Editor-in-Chief

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The Best Buddies Friendship Walk was held May 5 at Raymond James stadium. 

The walk, currently in its 10th year, is orchestrated and attended by various chapters of the Best Buddies organization, a group that promotes opportunities for those with intellectual and physical disabilities. Over $130,000 was raised for Best Buddies from the walk, the participants of which were encouraged to donate.  

“It was honestly a lot of work,” junior Lily Bonbrest, president of the Plant Best Buddies chapter and three-time attendee said. “We raised almost $15,000, so it took a lot of group effort… a lot of asking, a lot of letting down egos.” 

The Best Buddies program partners students together. Freshman Martin Ramirez was matched with Bonbrest earlier this year at the Best Buddies Halloween matching party.   

“I was nervous going into high school, but Best Buddies helped,” Ramirez said. “When I first did Best Buddies, I was more social with people and it helped me be more confident.” 

Freshman Jocelyn Sitzmann, who participated in the walk for the first time, came with her buddy, Jacob Swan. She joined Best Buddies after speaking with friends who were already involved in it and felt it was “the right fit”. 

 “My favorite part was the activities and the friends,” Sitzmann said. “I love the friendships you make and the new possibilities opening,”  

Some of the activities at the walk, besides the walk through the stadium and on the field, included bouncy houses and an art bus.  

“I would love coming back,” Ramirez said.  “All these nice people there have made it easier for me. I met all these nice people here and they are very supportive.” 

The funds raised at the friendship walk and nationwide events like it are used by the Best Buddies organization to finance and promote inclusive living, job training and other programs for those affected with intellectual and developmental disabilities.