Best Buddies Connecticut: Champion of the Year

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Proudly Supports Best Buddies In Connecticut

Evening Agenda 7:00PM

Event Begins


Welcome by Buddy Ambassador and Job Participant Dudley Williams III




Silent Auction Closes Jewelry Raffle Closes


Fundraising Program Starts


Champion of the Year Announced


Event Concludes


Taylor Kinzler

Taylor graduated from American University in 2015 with a degree in broadcast journalism. She then went on to anchor the evening news at WABI TV5, the CBS affiliate station in Bangor, Maine for three years. In 2018, Taylor moved to Hartford, Connecticut to pursue a new venture, launching a morning lifestyle show called CT Live! You can catch her weekdays at 11:30 am on NBC Connecticut. Originally from Massachusetts, Taylor got her start in community outreach as a volunteer solutions coordinator for the United Way of Greater New Bedford, speaking with students at local high schools and connecting them to service projects. She then established “Give the Gift of You,” an online resource for Massachusetts youth to find volunteer opportunities. Taylor won the title of Miss Massachusetts in 2012, dedicating her year to that initiative while also serving as an ambassador for the Children’s Miracle Network. She has volunteered with Best Buddies in Massachusetts, Maine, and Connecticut and is proud to support their message of inclusivity, love, and acceptance.

Champions & Mission Partners

Champion Lauren Morency, Campaign Manager Jesse Oloski, Mission Partner Colby VanDusen

Champion David Caspe & Mission Partner Abby Meyer

Champion Nick Rose & Campaign Manager Denise Rose

Champion Cristina Knowles & Mission Partner Margo Meley

Champion Sarah Sykes, Campaign Manager Nathan Swartz, Mission Partner Maya Bachmann

Champion Indy Day & Campaign Manager Jim Day

Champion Richard Fries & Mission Partner Angelo Santiago

Champion Kathryn O’Neil, Campaign Manager Andrew White, Mission Partner Cate Alix


Grand Champions

Champion Peter Ramsay & Brendan LeMieux Champion: Peter Ramsay Best Buddies is a group of individuals whose only objective is to create friendships. I think the Alexander Dumas quote, “Friendship consists in forgetting what one gives and remembering what one receives” describes Best Buddies very well. Mission Partner: Brendan LeMieux Best Buddies has helped me make some pretty awesome friendships and it is changing the world by spreading social inclusion!

Meet Our Champions Lauren Morency

Mission Partner: Colby VanDusen | Campaign Manager: Jesse Oloski

I first discovered Best Buddies while working as a paraprofessional at my former high school. Almost all the students I worked with were a part of Best Buddies and would speak with such excitement whenever they had an event to go to, a meeting, or just passed their buddy in the hallway and exchanged “high fives.” The positive and inclusive culture Best Buddies wove into the fabric of the school was felt throughout the community as well. Local businesses extended their generosity, parents joined forces to raise awareness, and friendships blossomed. Back then, I was amazed that an organization such as Best Buddies, that specialized in friendships, could make such a difference in the lives of everyone they touched. Now fast forward two years, and I have been nominated as a 2021 Champion for Best Buddies, CT. I truly feel that this is one of those full circle moments. Not only do I think this is one of the most fun and rewarding opportunities I could have, but I get to be a part of spreading the Best Buddies mission to those around me!

David Caspe

Mission Partner: Abby Meyer

Often in the business world, it’s all about the connections—who ya know. David Caspe has been owner of Applied Merchandising Concepts for over 20 years. One of the original partners hired Evelyn Jusino as AMC’s Controller. Evelyn’s daughter is Lynn Simon, our very own Director of Development. Pretty soon, David and AMC started producing all kinds of materials for Best Buddies (remember our “high-five hands” for Hallowheels?), sponsoring a Citizen’s excursion to Citi Field for a Mets game, and now joining us to be one of this year’s Champions. David is passionate about his business, his family, and TENNIS! David graduated from University of Hartford on a tennis scholarship and now plays, watches, and cheers on matches, whether live at the U.S. Open or on a screen at home or in his office. His favorite players are Roger Federer and Dominic Thiem. “Once you hear or see the story about Best Buddies, you love it and you want to share it with others,” says David. “It’s about the simple things that bring someone happiness.” We’re glad we connected with you, David.

Indy Day

Campaign Manager: Jim Day

Indy’s sister drafted him to attend their high school Best Buddies “Monday lunch,” and he never left! One of his high school buddies, Grace, literally handpicked Indy to be her buddy, and they sealed their match at the chapter’s Disneyland trip and in their dance for the annual talent show. If we’re lucky, he’ll show us his dance—alas, minus the tutu. This summer, Indy interned at the national Best Buddies office. Tonight, Indy drove down from Boston College where he is a junior majoring in English, a Bowman Advocate, facilitating conversations about diversity and race on campus, and an active member of the BC Best Buddies chapter. His buddy, Joel, works at the dining halls, loves to talk about stereo systems, and, to use Indy’s words, “makes my day.” He’s doing this year’s Champion event for Joel!

Nick Rose

Campaign Manager: Denise Rose

As a Mission Champion, Nick’s goal is to raise awareness of what Best Buddies is all about: good friends. Nick has worked at WalMart for 15 years, stocking shelves, unloading trucks, doing customer carry out, and zoning—”makin’ it all look good!” A great day for Nick is working, playing video games, and walking his two dogs, Rocky and Smokie. Ask our buddy Nick anything about NASCAR, and he can keep you entertained all evening! He’s the proud owner of a Joey Logano autograph on a Home Depot yardstick, and if he ever meets Tony Stewart, his favorite driver, his plan is to ask him if he will do the Indy 500. Nick wants to make sure everyone has a “good ol’ time” at the Champion Soiree. After all, it’s a “fun-raiser!”

Cristina Knowles

Mission Partner: Margo Meley

Welcome to one of BBCT’s newest staff member: Cristina Knowles! In her search for a program manager position, Cristina determined she needed to work with an organization that inspires passion and serves the community—and are we lucky she found us! She was attracted by the passion every employee, volunteer, board member, and participant has for Best Buddies and its heartfelt service to the community. A Connecticut girl since age 9, Cristina now lives in Norwich with her two cats, Willow and Clover, who she adoringly refers to as “Smoosh” and “Toosh” because they are very fat and “smooooooshy.” She’s a self-professed lover of scifi, reading, puzzles, comic books, and gardening, and her home is filled with houseplants. Cristina can’t wait to create more activities and events for our Citizens and Ambassadors, and your support for each Champion will make that happen!

Richard Fries

Mission Partner: Angelo Santiago

Richard, a bicycle advocate, leads all of the Best Buddies Challenge bike rides and believes that with a tiny bit of help, everybody can do amazing things on bicycles.

Sarah Sykes

Campaign Manager: Nathan Swartz | Mission Partner: Maya Bachmann

Sarah Sykes epitomizes what it means to be a Best Buddies Connecticut Champion. Hers is the longest and one of the most heartwarming histories with Best Buddies. 18 years ago, Best Buddies turned Sarah’s world around, giving her purpose, friendships, and making her life worthwhile. She became her high school chapter’s president, and in college, she founded one of the first Best Buddies chapters in Kentucky. Upon her return to Connecticut, Sarah registered for the Citizens Program and was matched with Maya, her Champion partner and true best buddy. Her Best Buddies experiences lit her path, empowering her to become a special education teacher. Sarah’s passions for those with special needs also extends to her pets. She is the proud puppy-mom of Saffron, a nine-year-old rescue that seems to be an Australian Shepherd/ Border Collie mix and Sage, a deaf, eight-month-old recue pup, most likely a Catahoula Leopard mix.

Kathryn O’Neil

Campaign Manager: Andrew White | Mission Partner: Cate Alix

Kathryn O’Neil is the Employer of Choice and Engagement Manager at Pratt & Whitney. She is responsible for developing and implementing global communication strategies to drive key recruitment, retention and diversity and inclusion initiatives. Prior to Pratt & Whitney she was the Senior Social Media Specialist at Otis Elevator Co. where she was responsible for social media strategy. She was recognized as one of Hartford Business Journal’s 40 Under Forty in 2019 for her success in business and leadership in the community. In her free time she enjoys kayaking, listening to musicals and eating lots of ice cream! She is incredibly grateful to be part of this year’s Best Buddies Champions campaign and would like to thank her campaign partners, Cate Alix and Andrew White.

2020-2021 School Brien McMahon High School East Lyme High School Newtown High School North Haven Middle School Norwalk High School Seymour High School Seymour Middle School Shelton High School Shelton Intermediate School Staples High School Watertown High School Westhill High School Wilbur Cross High School Branford High School Cheshire High School Coventry High School Dodd Middle School Edwin O. Smith High School Glastonbury High School North Branford High School Rocky Hill High School Southington High School Suffield High School Eastern Connecticut State University Fairfield University Quinnipiac University Sacred Heart University Southern Connecticut State University Trinity College University of Connecticut University of Hartford Yale University North Haven High School Darien High School North Branford Intermediate School Hamden High School Naugatuck High School Simsbury High School Woodland Regional High School


Hamden Middle School Western Middle School Brookfield High School Harborside Middle School Tolland High School Trumbull High School Fairfield Ludlowe High School Hillcrest Middle School Fairfield Warde High School University of New Haven Ansonia Middle School Joel Barlow High School Perry Hill School Lyman Hall High School Roton Middle School Ponus Ridge Middle School Enfield High School East Shore Middle School Two Rivers Magnet Middle School Capt. Nathan Hale School West Rocks Middle School Nathan Hale Middle School Oxford High School Mansfield Middle School Swift Middle School John F. Kennedy Middle School Tourtellotte Memorial High School Thompson Middle School Mary R. Fisher Elementary School Pomperaug High School Frenchtown Elementary School Middlebrook School Notre Dame High School Robert E. Fitch High School James H. Moran Middle School Granby Memorial High School Greenwich High School Central Connecticut State University Valley Regional High School

Bid From the Heart The Value of Your Donation Supports

Best Buddies helps form meaningful friendships, secure successful jobs, live independently, improve p u b l i c s p e a k i n g , s e l f - a d v o c a c y a n d c o m m u n i c a t i o n s s k i l l s , a l l w h i l e f e e l i n g v a l u e d b y s o c i e t y.

$5,000 • A middle school, high school, or college Best Buddies Chapter for a year

• The cost of the room and food to host 250+ Best Buddies members to the statewide Friendship Ball

$2,500 • 10 buddy runners to participate in the ION Bank Cheshire Half Marathon or 5K or Team Best Buddies Relay

$1,000 • The cost to send a Buddy to the Leadership Conference (Registration and Air) • A tent at the walk

• DJ or photo booth for a statewide Best Buddies event




• Bus to transport a school chapter to the Friendship Walk or Friendship Ball • Registration for a buddy to attend the Leadership Conference • The cost of a flight to send a student leader to the Leadership Conference in Indiana • Citizens/Ambassador bowling party

• 1 buddy runner to participate in the ION Bank Cheshire Half Marathon • The cost of buying t-shirts for a school chapter


• The cost to send 4 buddies to the Friendship Ball

• The cost to send a buddy to the Party with a Purpose

• Transportation for 2 ambassadors to give public speeches • The cost of a pizza party for a school chapter

Board Members Valerie Strange, OTD, MS, OTR/L Board Chair Clinical Associate Professor of Occupational Therapy Quinnipiac University Steve Colgan Parent Michelle Marchand Illusive Networks-sales Kim Hartmann Quinnipiac University-Dr/ professor/Dept head Debbie Lavigne Director of Fitness, Leisure, and Wellness School of Health Sciences Quinnipiac University Noelle Alix Vinson & Elkins LLP-Attorney Margret Anthony Parent

Lauren Vendetto Business Owner Andrew White, Buddy Ambassador Business Specialist Mosaic Heather Iannone Teacher Nancy L. Meyer, MAT President, NancyProofed, LLC Proofreading & Copyediting Abby’s mom Sarah Sykes Teacher Darrel Gibson Finance Executive Stanley Black & Decker Ashley Collins Student

Thank You T O



Abby and Nancy Meyer

High Hopes

Porsche Wallingford

Back 9

Jacqueline Raposo

Salsa Fresca

Abigail’s Bartaco


Brenda Moriarty

Cape Cod Fence Co.


Janae Marks Jill Graham

John Gagnon Kendra Scott

Cara Paiuk of Face Forward Headshots Kim Hartmann Cheshire Nursery

Kyle Wilson

Coco Lily

Lynn & Michael Simon

Cindy Eastman

Dana Meachen Rau Diageo

DiCapo in Simsbury Elicit Brewery Foxwoods

Fred Astair Dance Studio

Friends of Best Buddies in CT Good News

Greg Zupkus

Hartford WolfPack

Hartford Yard Goats Helen Pappas

Lauren Vendetto

Michelle Marchand

Millwright’s in Simsbury Mojoe’s

Naples Pizza

New Britain Bees

New Canaan Dance Academy New Canaan Mounted Troop Nora’s Ovenworks

Nutmeg Knolls Studio Onyx

Palace Theater Paul Vallillo

Prime Sushi

Salute Restaurant Sarah Sykes

Sharon Farber Shirley Sykes Sift in Mystic

Silver Linings

Stanley Black & Decker Steve Colgan

Supercarged GoKart

The Farms Country Club The Seward Family Travelers

Van Wilgen’s Vera Bradley Verde

Vinson & Elkins

Waterbury Country Club Webster Bank

Wilton Playshop Woodwinds

GAFFNEY, BENNETT AND ASSOCIATES INCORPORATED GOVERNMENT RELATIONS AND POLITICAL CONSULTING One Liberty Square • New Britain, CT 06051 Phone: 860-229-0301 • Fax: 860-225-4627 Email:

AT&T is proud to support Best Buddies Connecticut & its Champions! Please visit us at:

Thank you for being more than just our eyes!

The Hometown Foundation, Inc. is a non-profit, charitable organization committed to supporting the community in conjunction with Bozzuto's, Inc., its family of retailers and community business partners. The Hometown Foundation, established in 2002, is dedicated to enhancing the quality of life for individuals and their families in hometowns and surrounding communities in which we operate. The Foundation's commitment centers around five areas of charitable focus to support a broad range of programs that meet community needs. By supporting these endeavors you are directly servicing individuals in need, assisting in program development and growing our year-round missions.


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Supporting Best Buddies Connecticut and its Champions!

Best of luck from FOCUS Government Affairs

is proud to support Best Buddies Connecticut & its Champions!

Best of luck to all the Best Buddies Champion Candidates!

Onyx Jewelers is proud to support Best Buddies Connecticut

Best of luck to all the Best Buddies Champion Candidates!


Best Buddies International is the world’s largest organization dedicated to ending the social, physical and economic isolation of the 200 million people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). Our programs empower the special abilities of people with IDD by helping them form meaningful friendships with their peers, secure successful jobs, live independently, improve public speaking, selfadvocacy and communication skills, and feel valued by society.


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Connecticut Office 1224 Mill Street, Building B | East Berlin, CT 06023 BESTBUDDIESCHAMPION.ORG/CONNECTICUT

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