Griffith Hosts 6th Annual Best Buddies Friendship Walk


Katherine McCarthy, Reporter

On Thursday, April 18 the Griffith Chapter for Best Buddies commenced their annual walk to raise awareness for one-to-one friendships, integrated employment, leadership development, and inclusive living for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Best Buddies is an international American nonprofit 501 organization that gives opportunities for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities to feel included in both their schools and communities. Melissa Diekelmann is the Intense Interventions Special Education Teacher at Griffith High School as well as being the sponsor for the Best Buddies walk this year. She has been the sponsor for the Griffith Chapter of Best Buddies for years now, making this friendship walk her 6th. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the “walk” was virtual last year.

 “To me, Best Buddies is about bringing people together who might not normally associate with each other. We match up students with an intellectual disability with one of their peers without a disability. We foster lasting friendships through our program,” said Diekelmann. 

25 people from the school and the community attended the walk this year. Diekelmann stated they had gotten there and hung out for a bit before proceeding to walk around Central Park in advocation for people living with disabilities. From 2 P.M to 4 P.M, which was how long the walk lasted, they also played many outdoor games.

The Best Buddies program for schools was first started in 2009 where it eventually spread to over 24 states. The concept for the program was first created in 1989 by Anthony K. Shiver at Georgetown University in Georgetown, D.C. Shiver’s intention with the creation of Best Buddies was to help kids with disabilities to improve their communication skills and public speaking while also helping them to make meaningful friendships with their peers. He wanted everyone to feel included and valued for just being themselves through this non-profit organization.