The buddy system

Best Buddies President senior Sally Ancheva awards sophomore Abigail Hall after events for the day concluded.

Courtesy of @BestBuddiesWLHS

Best Buddies President senior Sally Ancheva awards sophomore Abigail Hall after events for the day concluded.

On Saturday, May 28, Best Buddies held their first annual Best Buddies Olympics. The event was created using a $500 grant given to the club by the Best Buddies Youth Leadership Council, a branch of Best Buddies International, an organization focused on developing friendships and opportunities for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Led by club president senior Sally Ancheva with the help of volunteers from WL, Centreville and Bishop Ireton, buddies and peer buddies competed in sporting events on the track, ate lunch and received awards and prizes. “We decided to use the grant for our own Olympics because we wanted an inclusive, team oriented day that involved sports,” Ancheva said. “Best Buddies goes to professional sports games and plays in basketball tournaments, so we wanted to continue that with our own event.”

The event mirrored the Special Olympics, an international competition for athletes with physical and mental disabilities. Unlike the Special Olympics, however, peer buddies also competed, allowing athletes to work together and be a team.The day started with an opening ceremony that included a commencement speech the singing of the national anthem by senior Callie Randall. From there, participants competed in sprints, relays, obstacle courses, a softball throw and other activities. The last event held was a soccer game, followed by the awarding of medals and prizes to participants. Finally, a closing ceremony marked the end of the day. “We wanted to allow the buddies to attempt and accomplish obstacles that even they might have thought were beyond their own reach,” Buddy Coordinator Keegan McClelland said. “I saw so many of the buddies laughing and thoroughly enjoying themselves, which was the entire goal of the event.”

Club members were not the only participants at the event. Students from Yorktown and Oakton also came out to take part in the festivities. “We wanted to get the community involved and encourage people to volunteer and support the participants,” Ancheva said. “Spreading our message across schools was something we thought was important.”

The Olympics was no easy feat; club officers and members alike spent weeks planning and preparing for the day. When the time came, it took dozens of helpers to put on the event. “I think it was such a success because of all of the hard work and effort that was put into making sure this event was special,” McClelland said. “This wouldn’t have been possible without the help of all of our officers and volunteers.”

After their first Best Buddies Olympics, the club is already looking forward to the future. The clubs has started brainstorming new games to make the day competitive and fun, and more ways to expand on their success. “We had invited schools from all across the area to attend, but unfortunately, only a few could go,” McClelland said. “Next year, when we have the second annual Olympics, we hope to get more school chapters to attend.” The club hopes to receive more grants and raise money for similar competitions in order to continue their message of inclusion and friendship. Ancheva said, “We want this to be a big, sustainable event that we can sponsor for years to come.”