Below is an article that appeared in the March 6, 2012 edition of the Daily Gleaner.
March 6, 2012
By Tara Chislett
Tanner Wilson said she wasn’t sure she’d enjoy Best Buddies when her mother first suggested she try it.
‘At first I was kind of like I don’t know if I can do that. I don’t know if I have the personality for it,’ the Leo Hayes High School student said.
‘But after my first year I realized how much of a connection I have with these students and how much I want to improve their lives and try to get the student body also to step forward and take that leap.’ Today, Wilson is one of three copresidents of the program at her school, which aims to create friendships between students and people with intellectual disabilities.
More than 50 countries around the world participate in Best Buddies and in Canada, there are more than 250 chapters.
On Saturday, Wilson and more than 50 members of several Best Buddies chapters from the Fredericton area came together at Chapters in the Regent Mall for a social event to celebrate March as Best Buddies Month.
Designed to give people a chance to learn more about the program, the fourth annual Read All About It event featured speeches and readings by dignitaries, supporters and members, free cake and drinks provided by Starbucks. In Fredericton, the University of New Brunswick, St. Thomas University, Fredericton High School, Leo Hayes High School, Nashwaaksis Middle School and Park Street Elementary School have all launched Best Buddies chapters.
Event co-organizer Cassandra Parsons said it’s been two years since the Best Buddies chapter at Fredericton High School started and she said it’s been a positive experience for everyone involved.
‘I’ve really seen a big change already,’ she said.
‘It’s given the buddies, in this case the people with disabilities, more of a social experience. It’s really sweet.’ Matt St. Onge, who read a poem about friendship in front of the crowd to kick off Saturday’s event, said getting involved with Best Buddies last year was one of the best things he’s ever done.
‘It’s given me some of the happiest times of my life,’ he said.
St. Onge said the group BBQs and bowling trips to Kingswood have been fun, but one of his favourites part is spending time with his new friend, Jennifer.
‘She’s a really nice girl,’ he said.
Fredericton-Nashwaaksis MLA Troy Lifford and his daughter, Claire, were also among those who stopped by the event at Chapters.
Lifford said Claire has been involved in the Best Buddies chapter at Park Street Elementary School for the last year.
‘She was excited to come up (for the event),’ he said.
‘Her and her friend Kali (Wilson) are buddies with Owen. She always has a little story or something about the day or their outing. It’s great. The earlier we can get kids to realize everyone is special in their own unique ways, the better.’ Wilson agreed, saying her experience with the Leo Hayes chapter has encouraged her and she plans to stay involved through university, too.
‘I’m hooked,’ she said.