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A night to shine

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best buddies night 149

By Brian Besch
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Softball season is here and the Livingston Lady Lions have challenged a few larger schools on the schedule. However, it is what they are doing off the field or before the game Tuesday that may be more important

“Athletically, we aren’t necessarily a part of the Best Buddies program,” Livingston softball coach Heather Mosser said. “It is a program that pairs students with students that have special needs. Those students sign up to be a part of that program, but I have quite a few athletes that participate.”

Each month, the Best Buddies hold an event that include things like bowling, fun runs, or – like Tuesday – a softball game.

“On every Friday, we do what I call our ‘Best Day,’” Mosser explained. “We bring our students with special needs into our athletic period and they work out with us. They do a warmup with us, actual exercises and trainings with us, and we put them through some body-weight movements or calisthenics, some exercising or jogging. We end with an activity or game. Today (Friday) is kind of a light day, but we are bowling, and I have six lanes in the gym. How that leads into our event is we invite them to come to our game. I did it for volleyball (where Mosser is also the head coach) and I did it for softball last year, and it was a big deal. I knew this one was going to be an even bigger deal. I actually invited the Polk County Go-Getters as well, because I just recently directed their Special Olympics tournament at the junior high.”

A total of 17 Best Buddies and Go-Getters were in attendance Tuesday, participating in pregame activities.

Some of the more experienced students take a Buddy in the program, while beginners can be part of a group that works with special-needs students without taking as much responsibility.

“Because we work with them so closely throughout the year, we develop great relationships with these kids,” the coach said. “We see them in the halls, and they run up and hug us. They are a part of us. It is starting to shed light on a group where there is a great need in our community. The more we do with them, the Buddy group itself is growing. They are trying to stay with a schedule of having an event every month.”

Amy Cherry is an occupational therapist at LISD over the program. She said the number of events has been consistent over the past three years since the Livingston High School chapter of Best Buddies has been in existence. However, student participation has increased significantly.

“We have over 100 active student members and host monthly activities or functions to give our members opportunities to know each other better and strengthen their friendships,” Cherry said. “This year we have hosted a Back to Best Buddies mixer, our annual Match Party (where members find out who their Buddies are), Go-Getters scrimmage, Friendsgiving, and a bowling night. Other school organizations have also hosted joint events. Student Council has hosted dances for both homecoming and Valentine’s Day. The Lady Lions have hosted nights for Best Buddies at a volleyball game and a softball game.”

There are several events planned for the remainder of the year, including the annual Color Run, which will take place Saturday, April 13. Registration for the event will begin March 18 and they are hoping for continued community support and attendance.

“Every day brings a new smile and every day is a new adventure with them,” Mosser said. “There is so much joy and pure positivity, because these kids are working with students in a different way and treating them as their peers. It is just a cool mesh for what they can do for us, but also what we can do for them.

“It gives them their moment. It is their night to shine. We all get our moment on stage, our platform, or our game we play. I just want to provide their platform for them as well. At lunch, there are waves and hugs and hollers. You see them and know them by name, and it is fun to have that interaction.”

Mosser said she has had coaches reach out to her, including the Kingwood Park coach, who was Tuesday’s opposition on the field.

“She was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I am stealing this idea from you.’ I said, ‘You don’t have to steal it, take it and run with it and do it. It is such a great thing.’

“It is bringing light to an area that we need to share with the world. We need more of this in a world filled with so much hate. This is just a moment of joy that everyone should be a part of.”  n

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