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Best Buddies wins best chapter in Illinois

Peter+Dankelson%2C+Alexa+Donato+and+Chase+Miller+attended+the+Best+Buddies+Halloween+party+and+painted+festive+pumpkins+on+Oct.+28.
Peter Dankelson, Alexa Donato and Chase Miller attended the Best Buddies Halloween party and painted festive pumpkins on Oct. 28.

Peter Dankelson, Alexa Donato and Chase Miller attended the Best Buddies Halloween party and painted festive pumpkins on Oct. 28.

Stephanie Luce

Stephanie Luce

Peter Dankelson, Alexa Donato and Chase Miller attended the Best Buddies Halloween party and painted festive pumpkins on Oct. 28.

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On Oct. 23, Best Buddies was recognized for its recent awards by the District 128 school board.

Last May, at the Best Buddies Friendship Walk, held at Brookfield Zoo, LHS was named best chapter in Illinois; additionally, the group received an outstanding chapter award by the international Best Buddies organization. The best chapter award, given by Best Buddies Illinois, is “determined by the four program supervisors,” explained Emma Reutter, one of the four program supervisors.

“Four program supervisors get together and collectively choose the schools they want to nominate and discuss based on the program managers’ descriptions of that school,” she said. “We decide based on whether the school is filling out friendship updates, and basically abiding by the Best Buddies guidelines, as well as throwing outstanding or unique events.”

One such event LHS puts together that stands out to the Best Buddies organization is the annual carnival, according to Reutter, because “it is an absolutely amazing event. It is a massive feat and a huge fundraiser. It really promotes inclusion, which we are all about.”

Not only does LHS Best Buddies try to promote inclusion of all abilities with the carnival but also inclusion of everyone in the community and in the area, shared Mrs. Lindsay Recsetar, a sponsor of LHS Best Buddies.

“We invite not only our students here at LHS and their families, but we invite all surrounding Best Buddies chapters in Lake and Cook county. People from all over come,” Mrs. Recsetar said. “We also reach out to community members and the feeder school districts and invite everyone. We invite staff members and their families. I think a big piece of it was the community outreach piece we do and how many people we bring in for the carnival.”

When LHS won this award, Mrs. Recsetar reflected that “it was nice to just see everyone rewarded for all the hard work they did, not only the peer buddies, board members and presidents, but also our buddies and their families and everyone who pours their heart and soul into this club.”

Some, like board member Max Moulton, believe that this award affects more than just the club itself but rather the school as a whole.

“I think [having a strong Best Buddies chapter] definitely does affect the atmosphere at LHS. It really promotes the atmosphere of inclusion, regardless of ability, physical appearance, or mental state,” he said. “[The buddies are] all Wildcats and a part of our community, and they’re our friends.”

Even though the LHS Best Buddies chapter is now award-winning, leaders of the club are still trying to make improvements, according to Moulton.

“We are just doing a lot more events and fun things. For Homecoming last year, there was nothing to do for the buddies. If they wanted to go to Homecoming, they kind of just had to go by themselves,” Moulton said. “This year, we started a group. All of the board members and all of the buddies who wanted to come to Homecoming all went together as a group. We had appetizers at someone’s house and we did the whole thing. We are planning even more things like that just to get people social and included in the school events.”

Events like these are important for the club to arrange because they can have lifelong impacts for some by creating friendships, explained the club’s vice president, Kyra Ritchie.

“I’ve forged friendships that are just some of the best friendships with people who are just so fun to hang out with,” she said. “We do fun things inside and outside of school. It’s just a really cool friendship with everyone in the club, which is lifelong.”

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Best Buddies wins best chapter in Illinois