Livingston softball teams up with special-needs students in high school program
The Livingston High School Best Buddies threw out the first pitch of the Livingston High School softball game and stood with Lady Lion players for the national anthem at last week’s contest versus Huntington. A video of the event has since gone viral, with over 200,000 views.
Best Buddies is the world’s largest organization dedicated to ending the social, physical and economic isolation of the 200 million people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). The programs are designed to empower the special abilities of people with IDD by helping them form meaningful friendships with their peers, secure successful jobs, live independently, improve public speaking, self-advocacy and communication skills, and feel valued by society.
Livingston High School has a Best Buddies chapter, which was created in the fall of 2021. They host parties and events for members throughout the year, including a Meet and Greet, Homecoming Dance, Valentine’s party, Christmas party, and the Buddies will go to lunch together in the cafeteria. Most activities are held during the school day.
“Coach (Heather) Mosser and her varsity softball team stopped by my classroom to invite my students to their game. My students were beyond excited,” Livingston High life skills instructor Veronica Casanova-Foster said. “That night was amazing. Everyone was so happy. I do admit I was teary eyed as my students took to the field. Mrs. (Jennifer) Birdwell and Mrs. (Amy) Cherry did an amazing job of capturing the players and their Buddies. Amy Cherry put the video together and the rest is history.
“Our primary goal when we posted the video was to build community awareness. We wanted community leaders and local business owners to get to know our Buddies and organization. I sent emails to both Mrs. Birdwell and Mrs. Cherry on Friday about the number of views, shares, and likes our video had generated. At that time, we had over 50,000 views. Today, we have over 200,000 views. The comments have all been so wonderful and heartfelt. People from across the country have commented on how wonderful the students from LHS are. This experience has definitely shone a bright light on our students, our school district and community.”
Casanova-Foster said the district at which she previously worked had an organization called Peer Assistance Leadership (PALs), where students were matched with a pal from Life Skills for the year.
“Lifelong friendships were built,” Casanova-Foster said. “So, when Amy Cherry, our district occupational therapist, approached me about starting up Best Buddies at our campus, I did not have to give it a second thought. Seeing my students build friendships with their general education peers has had such a positive effect on all of our students. We had our first match party last year in September 2021. We were not sure what the turnout would be or if we would have enough students to sustain membership. Our students did not disappoint. We had a great turnout with a membership of 25 students. One of our match party pictures was even featured in the Texas Best Buddies National Chapter newsletter. This year, we have over 70 members. The positive impact this organization has had on our students has been amazing. We cannot wait to see what is in store for our students and organization in the coming years.”
The popular Facebook video can be found at https://www.facebook.com/lisdlhs/videos/1852403528464572.
LHS Best Buddies is hosting a Color Fun-Run Saturday, April 1 from 9-11 a.m. in the Livingston High School parking lot. The event is open for all and there is a desire for the entire community to attend and celebrate.
The cost is $5 to participate and there will be commemorative T-shirts for purchase at $10 each. Registration for the event has begun and will last until March 31. T-shirts can be ordered until March 24 and will be obtained at the event. The registration can be found at The Bull Shack, located at 201 Southpoint Lane in Livingston.
Plans are for the proceeds to cover scholarships to seniors. A couple of other items include purchasing Best Buddies graduation cords, having an end of the year celebration, and recognizing the softball team. Coach Heather Mosser and her coaching staff. They would also like to give some of the proceeds raised to the Buddy Walk, as Best Buddies International funds integrated employment and inclusive living for individuals with IDD.