Best Buddies Leadership Conference - 2019 Impact Report

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Your Impact! July 18-21, 2019 Indiana University – Bloomington, Indiana


Since 1990, the Best Buddies Leadership Conference (BBLC) has inspired thousands of individuals — with and without intellectual and developmental disabilities — to become advocates for Best Buddies and for inclusion — empowering them to transform their schools, workplaces, and communities.


including 61 international participants

1,506 164 209 353

At BBLC, conference participants discover their power to create change . . . learning to use their skills, relationships and energy to build an inclusion revolution that promotes acceptance and opportunity.

Student Leaders

Community Leaders Ambassadors and Jobs Participants Staff

96 Volunteers 102 Special Guests

Participants enjoyed walking for inclusion at the annual BBLC Friendship Walk.

Opening Ceremonies got the weekend off to an inspiring start!


States. . . Arizona, California, Capital Region (including Virginia and D.C.), Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, and Wisconsin.

The Best Buddies Leadership Conference unites leaders, volunteers, and community advocates from around the world — all focused on inclusion.



Colombia Costa Rica

Dominican Republic

Hong Kong Ireland, Kenya

Best Buddies Expansion States Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming.

. . . and 14 Countries! Conference participants from Best Buddies Hong Kong had a great time at the Friendship Walk.


Macao, Mexico Panama, Spain and

the U.S.


Educational Training Sessions

Developing leadership skills together

BBLC brings together leaders, with and without intellectual and developmental disabilities, providing chapter leaders and ambassadors the training to develop leadership skills needed to organize a chapter and share the Best Buddies mission.

It’s always exciting to me to see all of these students together at Best Buddies Leadership Conference — seeing young people with and without intellectual and development disabilities as leaders.” Anthony K. Shriver, Founder, CEO and Chairman Best Buddies International

Student leaders discussed an issue during a World Café session.


Speech Coaches



Training leaders: mobilizing for action in schools and communities! Every year, BBLC participants learn about how to become effective advocates for inclusion— developing skills to take action both individually and as part of a group.

10 Training Tracks = More than 400 classes, workshops, presentations and events for attendees! Tracks included: Advanced Leadership Advisors Advisors receiving CEUs

Ambassadors (Youth and Adults) Colleges Community Leaders

High Schools Jobs Middle Schools

From left: Hannah Flynn, Ryan Hoffman, Kylee Sanchez, and Josh Felder, members of the Young Leaders Council

At BBLC, I was blown away by seeing how many lives Best Buddies has impacted not only in the U.S., but the whole world. Hearing all the stories and accomplishments of the buddies and members was really inspiring! I left BBLC feeling empowered and ready to make a lasting impact in my community.” Anne Moler

Advanced Leadership Trainer

Anne Moler, an officer with the University of Michigan Best Buddies Chapter, presented “What Does It Mean to Have a Disability?” – a workshop she independently developed for the college workshop series at BBLC. Along with sharing her story, Anne led groups through a series of games to heighten their awareness of what it means to have visual, learning, and other disabilities.

Ambassador Training:

The power of sharing your story and being heard

6 Classrooms 157 Ambassadors 60 Speech Coaches During the weekend, 157 Ambassadors developed and refined their stories of inclusion, demonstrating the power of the Best Buddies mission. Throughout the weekend, they practiced sharing their speeches in small groups and in auditoriums.

2019 Spirit of Courage Award: Jack Mayor The Spirit of Courage Award is presented annually 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. This is the most prestigious award presented to Ambassadors for their impact in the organization. Jack said, “Best Buddies has played an integral role in changing the course of my life, because it gave me the courage to find my voice.”

Students who lead and serve: Outstanding Chapter Awards Outstanding Chapter Award Recipients: Woodland Middle School, Tennessee Rawlins High School, Wyoming Middle Tennessee State University, Tennessee The Best Buddies Chapter at Rawlins High School (Rawlins, Wyoming), with more than 80 active chapter members, has one of the highest percentages of members of any high school. From raising more than $30,000 on a single Friendship Walk — in a town of 8,000! — this Expansion State chapter has a strong presence in its school and community.

2019 Employee of the Year: Jada Thompson Before she became a Best Buddies Ambassador and Friendship program participant, Jada was a Jobs participant and began working at MOD Pizza in June 2018. Her co-workers love Jada, her work ethic and her positive energy. “Having a job makes me feel wholesome. My job has allowed me to be financially independent and gives me confidence. My co-workers believe in me and want me to succeed,” said Jada.

2019 Young Leaders Council

Community Leaders

The Young Leaders Council (YLC), a group of 15 dynamic student leaders from all over the U.S., works with Best Buddies staff to create the inspirational experience that is BBLC. Conference participants saw YLC members speaking at Opening and Closing Ceremonies, leading workshops about chapter events, working as speech coaches and more! During the year, YLC works closely with Best Buddies staff to push new initiatives out to Best Buddies participants around the globe.

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I personally love connecting with other advisors from across the country. As we share both our successes and failures with each other, all of our chapters are strengthened.”

Chapter Advisors Board Members and State Event Chairs

Advisor Elizabeth Holloway with (from left) Anohki Patel, Mikayla Blalock, and Trinity Johnson, from Mary Persons High School, Forsyth, Georgia. Elizabeth has attended BBLC for seven years, bringing more than 20 student leaders with her! Holloway says, “BBLC is the most impactful experience my chapters officers have each year.”

Leadership Conference has been the best experience of my life so far! It opened my eyes and heart to all the possibilities of inclusion and just helping people know they are wanted and accepted, by doing the simplest things.” Arianna Skyes Harmony High School, Florida

96 Volunteers

Whether they are speech coaches, shuttle drivers or work at the welcome desk, volunteers are the HEART of BBLC.

Special thanks to Andrew Dorko, Todd Glaser, Barbara & Stephen T. Hearst, Thomas Leatherbury, Mary Miller, Matthew Milligan, Mary Murray, Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits, and the Lynda Woo General Trust

Steve Simpson BBLC Volunteer Since 2017

367 of BBLC Scholarships were funded through the BBLC Financial Assistance Program, along with Best Buddies Challenges and other national events!

“This is my third year coming to LC. Best Buddies has been a terrific way for my son, Sky, to meet new friends and keep long-term friends. I look forward to LC all year because it is one weekend when I get to work with some great volunteers and Ambassadors. We all make a huge difference in each other’s lives during the few days of the conference!

Steve and Sky Simpson volunteered together at LC this year, greeting people at Opening Ceremonies and helping set up the Friendship Walk Party in the Park!

The Best Buddies Friendship Walk and the Party in the Park are amazing celebrations of friendship and inclusion. It’s a time to connect with friends – old and new – from all over the world!

The support of sponsors, private family

foundations and donors enables Best Buddies to bring together more than 2,400 participants from major regions throughout the U.S., including our Expansion States.

Expansion State participants by region: Midwestern Region: 29 Kansas, Minnesota, Nebraska, Oklahoma Mountain Region: 52 Colorado, South Dakota, Utah, Wyoming Northwest Region: 16 Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, Washington Southern Region: 51 Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina

BBLC attendees from Alaska and Georgia

The Expansion Team is grateful to its supporters, volunteers, participants and champions from all over the U.S. that made it possible to send our largest delegation of Expansion participants to BBLC to date!

During my 10 years with Best Buddies, I have been very happy and gained confidence. I have made many friends all over the world. Now I’m able to help others with disabilities to feel included in society. We all have objectives in life and mine is to be a messenger to the world about Best Buddies’ mission.” Natalia Olivares San Justo, Best Buddies Ambassador Best Buddies Spain

Closing Ceremonies: Ambassador speeches Every year, five Ambassadors are chosen to share their speeches at Closing Ceremonies, which are heard by everyone in the Indiana University Memorial Auditorium and also the live-streaming audience. This is one of the most moving moments of Leadership Conference.

Chandler Michael and Will Kelly, buddies since 2017 (and friends since middle school!), attended their first Best Buddies Leadership Conference together in 2019!

Best Buddies International 100 Southeast Second Street, Suite 2200 Miami, FL 33131 P 305.374.2233 | F 305.789.5577


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