School starts Best Buddies chapter

Sophomore+Sara+Morefield%2C+sophomore+Kailey+Littlefield%2C+freshman+Taylor+Barney%2C+junior+Isabella+Zinn%2C+and+junior+Amy+Morefield+hold+the+Best+Buddies+paddle.+In+the+Best+Buddies+Organization%2C+they+have+Big+Sis+and+Little+Sis+pairings.+In+this+photo%2C+everyone+is+a+big+sis+for+Taylor+Barney%2C+who+is+the+little+sis.

Courtesy of Robyn Delahunt

Sophomore Sara Morefield, sophomore Kailey Littlefield, freshman Taylor Barney, junior Isabella Zinn, and junior Amy Morefield hold the Best Buddies paddle. In the Best Buddies Organization, they have “Big Sis and Little Sis” pairings. In this photo, everyone is a “big sis” for Taylor Barney, who is the “little sis”.

Lovejoy’s official Best Buddies chapter was created in October to spread awareness for students with disabilities. Best Buddies is an international organization with chapters across the world that educate students and community members about the emotional, functional and natural needs and abilities of people with intellectual developmental disabilities.

Life skills teacher, Robyn Delahunt, is the adviser for Lovejoy’s chapter. This is Delahunt’s first year in Lovejoy. 

“I wanted to bring this organization to Lovejoy because all kids should get to experience the fun activities that come with high school,” Delahunt said. “Lovejoy is so school spirited and there shouldn’t be any child who feels disconnected from the spirit.”

Teachers nominated students that exhibit compassion, belief in inclusiveness and a loving personality. 13 girls were chosen alongside the 6 boys in the program making a total of 19 members in the first year. 

“I tried to start a program in Plano, but I ended up leaving before I could develop it,” Delahunt said. “Once I left, no one was willing to continue it and it fell apart. This time, I looked for a group of kids that no matter what happened, they would be able to carry it on. This is a major thing and we have the chance to make a huge impact.”

Kailey Littlefield was nominated by Delahunt to be the president of the chapter. Littlefield runs the meetings and is a main contributor to planning the events.=

“I joined Best Buddies because I wanted to be in a program that helped others and impacted their lives positively,” Littlefield said. “We give kids with intellectual and developmental disabilities a chance to have a normal high school life.”

The Best Buddies’ students organized a Halloween event for the kids. The event was called “D-Halloween” and the students decorated the English hall and walked the kids around as teachers passed out candy.

“We came early every morning that week to plan, make and decorate the hall,” Sara Morefield, vice president, said. “On Friday, we all dressed up in onesies and walked the kids around during lunch. It was so much fun and I loved seeing how many people are already getting involved.” 

Best Buddies already planned upcoming projects for the school year. Their biggest event is the chili cook off where they plan to have entertainment and a petting zoo. 

“The next big project we have coming up is our friends-giving for Thanksgiving,” Delahunt said. “We are also doing a prom for our boys in the spring and talking about doing a chili cook off fundraiser event so we can raise money to send all our executive officers to Indiana for a leadership conference.”

The Lovejoy chapter is one example of how Best Buddies is integrating into schools and communities across the world.  

“I want the community to be able to see the importance of our special needs community here in Lovejoy,” Delahunt said. “We should never treat people with disabilities like a marginalized population. We should include them, acknowledge all the things they bring to society and socialize with them and include them in the community. They have so much to offer and everything they want out of life is the same as us.”