By Emily Banks Wooten
Lilly Haynes, a recent Livingston High School graduate and the reigning Miss Polk County, presented a program for the Rotary Club of Livingston about Best Buddies, a program in which she was actively involved the last two years.
“Best Buddies is a non-profit organization dedicated to establishing a global volunteer movement that creates opportunities for one-on-one friendships, integrated employment and leadership development for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). Best Buddies offers members opportunities that provide the necessary tools for people with IDD to become more independent and more included in the community,” Haynes said.
“It is a global movement with clubs in middle schools, high schools and colleges worldwide. Whenever the buddies are paired, it changes their lives forever. One on one friendship is really what Best Buddies is all about, breaking down barriers and having fun,” Haynes said.
“I’m going to Texas A&M in the fall and hope to get involved with Best Buddies there,” Haynes said, adding that her buddy is named Emma.
Haynes reviewed some of the events and activities in which the Best Buddies participated this past school year which include: a Chick-Fil-A fundraiser, Lunch with your Buddies, Buddies at the Ballpark, Fun Day, Leadership Conference, Volleyball Mixer, Homecoming dance party, T-Shirt Fundraiser, Go-Getters Game, Thanksgiving Feast, Christmas Party, Valentine’s Dance, Color Run, Inclusion Week theme days and honors and awards ceremony.
“There’s a difference between peer buddies and associate buddies, but both are important and need to be involved. Peer Buddies are required to complete friendship updates by the end of each month and associate buddies will complete a survey that is required. Every buddy needs to have more than one friend to talk to and hang out with,” Haynes said.
“What are the expectations? Priority and commitment, true friendship and attending monthly activities. Best Buddies is volunteer-centric, provides opportunities, provides equitable leadership roles and sets equal expectations for participants with and without disabilities in all programs,” Haynes said.
“How can you make an impact? You can advocate by having a profoundly positive impact on the lives of people with IDD. When you help Best Buddies enhance the lives of this underserved group of individuals, you contribute to the creation of a more inclusive world for all. You can donate. With your support, Best Buddies helps people with IDD form meaningful connections in the community that allow them to shine. By making a monthly gift, you’ll join The Bridge - a community of dedicated supporters investing monthly to bridge gaps between people with and without IDD,” Haynes said.
“You can also attend an event. There have been events locally such as the Best Buddies color run and fundraisers to participate in. Take advantage of these events and get involved locally. You can also shop. When you shop the 2023 Best Buddies shop 100% of proceeds go toward benefitting Best Buddies International,” Haynes said, adding that Amy Cherry is the Best Buddies sponsor at Livingston High School.
Haynes will compete in the Miss Texas Teen Pageant June 25-July 1 in Richardson.