The 26th Annual Best Buddies International Leadership Conference Packs in Loads of Fun for Student Leaders in Bloomington, Indiana


Presented by C.A. Hartnell

  • Kid Quill, Indiana’s top emcee in 2014 and up-and-coming artist rocks the crowd
  • Barbara Torres, Best Buddies Jobs participant of over 20 years, wins “Best Buddies Jobs Employee of the Year Award”
  • Lauren Potter, Best Buddies Ambassador and Star of the TV show “Glee” wins “Spirit of Courage Award”
  • Jewelry brand ALEX and ANI unveils their new arrow of friendship bangle, which stands for friendship and individuality in which proceeds benefits Best Buddies International
  • More than 2,600 people tuned in to watch the Conference, live streamed

Bloomington, IN (July 22, 2015) – Over 2,100 student leaders, volunteers, and staff from Best Buddies International Website programs around the world participated in the 26th Annual Best Buddies International Leadership Conference: I’M IN presented by C.A. Hartnell, July 17-20 at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana. The weekend offered attendees new ideas to share with their chapters’ back home, networking opportunities, and most importantly, lasting friendships.

Indiana University Auditorium Opening Ceremonies | Photo by John David Arroyo, Best Buddies International

Indiana University Auditorium, where over 2,100 people watched the 26th Annual Best Buddies Leadership Conference Opening Ceremonies | Photo by John David Arroyo, Best Buddies International

Best Buddies is a nonprofit organization dedicated to establishing a global volunteer movement that creates opportunities for one-to-one friendships, integrated employment and leadership development for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD).

This year’s conference, which brought together student leaders from Best Buddies Middle Schools, High Schools, Colleges and Promoters chapters around the world, featured a fantastic conference opening performance from Best Buddies participant Marlana VanHoose, that brought the crowd to their feet when she sang “I’m Walking on Sunshine” by Katrina and the Waves, accompanied by Best Buddies Ambassador Lisa Smith signing along with her.

Marlana VanHoose performs at the 26th Annual Best Buddies Leadership Conference: I'm IN Opening Ceremonies

Marlana VanHoose performs at the 26th Annual Best Buddies Leadership Conference: I’m IN Opening Ceremonies, held at Indiana University Auditorim | Photo by John David Arroyo, Best Buddies International

An uplifting video of how far we have come as a society to include those with Intellectual and Developmental disabilities kicked off the weekend. Anthony K. Shriver, Founder and Chairman of Best Buddies International, brought the crowd to tears with his inspirational speech comparing his son Joseph, to a young boy he brought on stage named Leo, who was born with Down syndrome. He explained, “We are all here, so both Joey and Leo can grow up in a world of friendship, inclusion and be given the same amount of respect.”

Anthony K. Shriver, Joey Shriver, Matt Mays, and Leo Mays

Anthony K. Shriver, Joey Shriver, Matt Mays, Leo Mays, and Marlana VanHoose  | Photo by John David Arroyo, Best Buddies International

Other highlights from the conference included a special performance by Marlana VanHoose accompanied by the Best Buddies Choir, made up of 60 Best Buddies staff, participants and volunteers. A high energy and exciting Friendship Walk led by Glee’s Lauren Potter, and commentated by Washington, D.C.’s radio personality and Best Buddies board member, Tommy McFly.

David DeSanctis, start of the film

David DeSanctis, start of the film “Where Hope Grows” | Photo by John David Arroyo, Best Buddies International

David DeSanctis, star of the film “Where Hope Grows” was also in attendance. The closing ceremonies featured several inspiring speeches from Best Buddies Ambassadors, including Samuel Smith (Connecticut), Molly Weissman (Illinois), Brian Tate (Maryland), Vanessa Stegall (Nevada), and Jaime Carne (United Kingdom).

Kid Quill performs at the Best Buddies Friendship Walk event at the 26th Annual Best Buddies Leadership Conference: I'm IN | Photo by John David Arroyo, Best Buddies International

Kid Quill performs at the Best Buddies Friendship Walk event at the 26th Annual Best Buddies Leadership Conference: I’m IN | Photo by John David Arroyo, Best Buddies International

The conference also honored a Best Buddies Middle Schools, High Schools, Colleges and Promoters chapter with the 2014-2015 Overall Outstanding Chapter Award: Lawrence Junior High School in Nevada; Washington-Lee High School in Virginia; Miami University in Ohio and De La Salle Santiago Zobel School in the Philippines.

Marlana VanHoose, Daniel Noltemeyer, Shelby Fontanilla, and Lisa Smith | Photo by John David Arroyo, Best Buddies International

Marlana VanHoose, Daniel Noltemeyer, Shelby Fontanilla, and Lisa Smith | Photo by John David Arroyo, Best Buddies International

Additionally, Best Buddies Ambassador and star of the hit Television show “Glee” Lauren Potter, was honored with the 2015 “Spirit of Courage Award,” which is presented to an outstanding Buddy Ambassador on behalf of their work to further the Best Buddies mission of empowering and advocating for those within the IDD community.

Lauren Potter is presented the Spirit of Courage Award from Anthony K. Shriver | Photo by John David Arroyo, Best Buddies International

Lauren Potter is presented the Spirit of Courage Award from Anthony K. Shriver | Photo by John David Arroyo, Best Buddies International

The 2015 Leadership Conference had several of Best Buddies’ Jobs participants in attendance. Barbara Torres, employed for 20 years with Holland and Knight law firm in Miami, Fl., was awarded the “Best Buddies Jobs Employee of the Year Award”, which is presented to an outstanding Jobs participant for their dedication and exemplary work ethic in the work force.

Barbara Torres, Best Buddies Jobs Employee of the Year | Photo by John David Arroyo, Best Buddies International

Barbara Torres, Best Buddies Jobs Employee of the Year  | Photo by John David Arroyo, Best Buddies International

Through various workshops, students were prepared and inspired for an exciting school year, implementing Best Buddies’ mission of changing the world through friendship. They discussed such topics as social inclusion, advocacy for people with IDD, and volunteer management.

ABOUT BEST BUDDIES  INTERNATIONAL:

Best Buddies® is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to establishing a global volunteer movement that creates opportunities for one-to-one friendships, integrated employment and leadership development for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Founded in 1989 by Anthony K. Shriver, Best Buddies is a vibrant organization that has grown from one original chapter to more than 1,900 middle school, high school, and college chapters worldwide. Today, Best Buddies’ eight formal programs — Middle Schools, High Schools, Colleges, Citizens, e-Buddies® , Jobs, Ambassadors, and Promoters — engage participants in each of the 50 states and in over 50 countries, positively impacting the lives of more than 900,000 people with and without disabilities around the world. In many cases, as a result of their involvement with Best Buddies, people with intellectual and developmental disabilities secure rewarding jobs, live on their own, become inspirational leaders, and make lifelong friendships. For more information, please visit www.bestbuddies.org, facebook.com/bestbuddies or twitter.com/bestbuddies.

ABOUT C.A. HARTNELL

C.A. Hartnell is a Las Vegas based author of an award-winning series of four historical fiction chapter books for children eight and older. Her four-book series is set in 1950s Southern California and earned a 2013 Mom’s Choice Silver Award. This award program is globally recognized for sharing excellence in family-friendly media, products, and services.

 

Media Inquiries/Photos:

Nicole Maddox
NicoleMaddox@bestbuddies.org
305-374-2233 ext.343

Jeanne Turkheimer
JeanneTurkheimer@bestbuddies.org
305-374-2233 ext. 215

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About Best Buddies

Best Buddies® is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to establishing a global volunteer movement that creates opportunities for one-to-one friendships, integrated employment and leadership development for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD).

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