CHARLOTTE – Best Buddies of North Carolina will host its inaugural “Be An Angel” Gala 6 to 11 p.m. Oct. 14 at the The Fillmore.
NC Director Tammy Medlock said this is a great way to “party with a purpose” and support inclusivity for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). There will be cocktails, dinner and a live and silent auction.
The money raised from the gala will fund the state organization’s one-to-one friendships and leadership development programs. These programs – along with the integrated employment initiative – are the foundation of this international nonprofit’s purpose to “end the social, physical and economic isolation of the 200 million people with IDD.”
Best Buddies NC formed at the beginning of last year and quickly gained support for the one-to-one friendship program.
Last year, Myers Park and three other schools formed friendship chapters. Now, there are 11 school friendship chapters in NC including local schools such as Carmel Middle, Charlotte Latin and UNC Charlotte. More than 200 student friendship pairs have formed and over 600 people have been involved with school chapters in this state so far.
The one-to-one friendship program provides opportunities for middle, high school and college students to develop relationships with fellow classmates with IDD in a safe, inviting space. It teaches them how to advocate for students with IDD as well as teaches students with IDD to advocate for themselves. Best Buddies NC works with schools to build and manage their friendship programs.
Gala funds raised for this program alleviate startup costs for schools. The money raised also covers ongoing administrative support as well as leadership training for the program’s student leaders.
Medlock said every chapter’s student leaders attend an annual leadership development training over the summer. The training helps them hone in on skills needed to advocate for people with IDD.
“They do a lot of speechwriting lessons for people with IDD,” she said. “It helps them contemplate and prepare their goals and mission.”
Best Buddies NC also holds state leadership training every fall. Last month, Myers Park United Methodist Church donated space for the group to host their first local leadership day, where chapter leaders from Duke and UNC-Chapel Hill led discussions on advocacy with area middle and high school students.
Anthony Shriver founded Best Buddies in 1989 at Georgetown University. The program now exists in 50 countries and reaches more than 1 million people with IDD. Shriver will be the keynote speaker at the gala along his childhood friend and local business leader Marty Sumichrast.
“Best Buddies has made significant strides within the intellectual and developmental disabilities community in North Carolina … and I am incredibly proud to celebrate the Best Buddies mission of friendship and inclusion with my childhood friend and dedicated Best Buddies supporter Marty Sumichrast and some of our most committed supporters, participants and volunteers at our North Carolina gala.”
People who attend the event will also get to meet local student leaders with IDD like Tammy Medlock’s son, Clay. She said being a student leader for Best Buddies at Myers Park High School has greatly influenced her son.
“It’s been amazing to see how this role has given Clay confidence and a purpose in life, which is what every parent wants for their child, especially parents of children with IDD,” she said
Find out more about the gala and purchase tickets by visiting https://www.best buddies.org/ncgala/.