Best Buddies wants to make friends in Park City | ParkRecord.com

Best Buddies wants to make friends in Park City

At some point in life, many people will come to understand what it's like to feel excluded and isolated.

This is especially true with the young and old who have special needs, and that's where Best Buddies comes in.

Best Buddies is a nonprofit that is "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," according to its mission statement.

On Friday, Oct. 14, Best Buddies Park City chapter will host an awareness event at Montage Deer Valley. Tickets are $75.

The night was organized by Parkites Lisa Allison and Liz Wall. Wall is the founder of the Park City chapter.

"The cost is tax deductible," Allison said. "All the money from the ticket sales will go to Best Buddies, so we can organize monthly programming for the families that are free."

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The idea to bring Best Buddies to Park City started two years ago when Wall, whose daughter Lottie has Down syndrome, wanted to bring a Best Buddies walk to Park City to raise awareness for the nonprofit.

Unfortunately, that didn't pan out.

"So, I worked with Lottie's school and started [a Park City] chapter," Wall told The Park Record. "The response with the students has been incredible."

The first time Wall asked students to become buddies with the school's two special-needs students, including Lottie, 20 kids showed up.

"We only asked for two and this happened," Wall said.

Best Buddies pairs volunteers with a special-needs person, and the volunteer, or Buddy, commits to check in with the person once a week when they aren't at school or at work.

"This benefits children like my Lottie because she gets a buddy away from school," Wall said. "It's during the weekends when the friendship components she enjoys when she's in school stop. No texts, no invitations to birthdays.

"The benefit for the Buddy is that they get a great lifelong friendship, not just within the school, but outside the school, through the adult years."

While working to set up a chapter at the Weilenmann School, Wall realized many people haven't heard of Best Buddies, so she decided to help organize the Oct. 14 event.

"We will ask people to attend the event to hear what [Best Buddies] is about and hear what we can provide and hear how we bring it to Park City," Wall said.

The evening will feature food and libations provided by Montage Deer Valley, according to Allison.

"I think one of the biggest pieces for people to understand is that Best Buddies not only works to provide friendships, but also works to provide integrated employment," she said. "Many of these young adults that we represent are employable, and we reach out to businesses in the community to speak to them about what Best Buddies can provide to these families."

Wall is grateful to Neil Johnson at Montage Deer Valley, who helped facilitate the venue.

"He has been extremely generous," she said. "He wanted to know what he could do to bring this event to Park City."

Wall said Best Buddies wants to work with other nonprofits and businesses to help further educate and serve the Park City area.

"One of our hopes is that we can help these special-needs kids and young adults celebrate milestones that others celebrate," she said. "We are partnering with Coldstone who will provide cakes for us to celebrate Buddies who have birthdays in October, and we will work with any organization, like the National Ability Center, that comes our way that is a good fit for inclusion.

"Everybody understands the feeling of exclusion and isolation, and Best Buddies fills a need on both sides of the aisle," Wall said. "Best Buddies seeks to fill that need of the sense of belonging."

Montage Deer Valley will host a Best Buddies awareness event at Montage Deer Valley on Friday, Oct. 14, from 6:30 p.m. until 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $75 per person. Tickets can be purchased by visiting http://www.Bestbuddies.org/utah.

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