Best Buddies Continues to Thrive


Samantha Smith, Staff Reporter

Have you been wondering what the Warren Hills Best Buddies club has been up to during the pandemic?

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, Best Buddies officers have gone out of their way to ensure personal connections for Best Buddies participants.

“A lot of preparation has gone into the club meetings this year, mainly due to the virtual nature of our activities,” said Warren Hills Regional High School educator and club instructor Toni Manfra.

Before the pandemic, Best Buddies, which works to enhance the lives of people with and without intellectual and/or developmental disabilities, held group meetings and activities to help students develop new friendships. Today, Best Buddies continues finding ways to keep participants involved.

Since the pandemic has pushed most of the world online, Best Buddies holds virtual Google Meets.

For example, on April 25 the club hosted a Google Meet dance class taught by senior Kaileigh Cagnassola. 

Freshman Donna Iuvone, Buddy Director, hosted a spring-themed meeting May 8, “Kindness Rocks.” The meeting started with a poetry reading and then an icebreaker activity where members shared how they know “spring has sprung.” Most members talked about spending more time outdoors and noticing the flowers blooming or trees budding. The main activity was writing positive messages on painted rocks and then sharing happy thoughts within the group. 

Sophomore Gabby Fama hosted a meeting May 6 — the day after Cinco de Mayo — where Best Buddies made pinatas and filled them with candy to celebrate. 

Not only has the Warren Hills club stayed busy with virtual events, but the Best Buddies International organization has hosted Zoom meetings too. The month of April saw an Open Mic afternoon where participants shared funny jokes, musical talents and more. Early May featured a Star Wars Trivia Night.

A “Best Buddies Bash” event will take the place of the club’s traditional semi-formal dance. Instead of the annual dance, a big bash is scheduled for Saturday, May 22.  Best Buddies merchandise has been ordered,  including T-shirts, sweatshirts, masks, stickers, fake tattoos, hats, socks, lanyards, and more for fun trivia and game prizes.  The club’s officers are working as a team to plan a great end-of-the-year celebration to wrap up the challenging year. 

But Best Buddies activities will not end with the conclusion in June of the 2020-2021 school year. During the summer, the chapter’s next president, Dimitra Georgoutsos, will be attending the Best Buddies Leadership Conference virtually July 13-15.

“The three-day, free digital event unites Best Buddies leaders, volunteers, and community advocates from around the globe to imagine, create, lead and empower the future of the disability rights and inclusion movement,” said a press release from Best Buddies International.

“Over the past 30 years,” the release continued, “BBLC has inspired thousands of leaders to be Best Buddies advocates and to bring about social change in their communities. This virtual conference offers opportunities to learn from professional presenters, participate in small group discussions, engage with experts, and choose from a diverse variety of education sessions that will inform, inspire, and advance your role in the disability rights movement.”

The club also hopes to get involved in the Warren Hills Extended School Year program over the summer. Members of Best Buddies facilitate fun activities like bingo, dance parties, tie-dying, and flower planting and other types of crafts.