Best Buddies hosts annual Friendship Walk in Houston

Celebrating its sixth year of tradition, the annual Best Buddies Friendship Walk is a celebration of inclusion for all and the power of friendship. It has taken place in over three countries, over 26 states and over 55,000 participants. Each separate walk location sets a goal to fundraise and this year the goal was $50,000. The Houston Walk surpassed that goal by raising $71,568, the most fundraising to date for Houston. Every year it is held at University of St. Thomas and took place on April 18 this year.

“Proceeds from the walk play a fundamental part in funding our state programs which provide one-to-one friendships, leadership development and integrated job opportunities for individuals with IDD. These programs can be found in all 50 states and will create promising opportunities for over 350,000 this year,” Best Buddies Texas said in a statement on their official website.

There is no fee for Walk Registration, but each participant is encouraged to fundraise $50 on their own in order to receive a t-shirt. Each Best Buddies Chapter in Houston is required to attend and set up a free booth. Creek’s chapter this year set up a photo booth, but other booths at the event included karaoke, pie throwing and hula hooping.

The walk itself is only a mile long. During the walk, walkers cheer and interact with each other to ensure that all those attending are as involved as possible.

“For me, the walk was just so much fun to be a part of. Seeing everyone from all around Houston come together to celebrate this message of inclusion was inspiring. It was just really cool to see everyone supporting each other,” Arbera Bedini, historian of Best Buddies Creek Chapter, said.

After the walk, there were performances and speeches on the stage, honoring many of the buddies involved. The only buddy pair that spoke together was Creek’s president, Sarah Creveling and her buddy Sara Goins. Creveling and Goins are no longer officially buddies because Goins graduated, but their friendship continues on. Goins is a Best Buddies Ambassador, who gives speeches to help empower others with intellectual and developmental disabilities to inspire change.

“Being asked to give a speech is always an honor, especially when it is about my friendship with Sara. Sara has had the biggest impact on my life, I don’t know where I would be without her honestly,” Creveling said. “When she started talking at the walk, I did not have anything to say, because I am so grateful for here. I do not even know how I anything I could say would have gotten her point across any better. She had the whole walk in tears.”

Afterwards, numerous awards were given out to recognize efforts to help promote the walk and raise awareness of the cause such as Most School Spirit and Sponsor of the year. Each award was presented by Miss Texas, Ylianna Guerra. The winner of the Money Cup for the top fundraising team was given to the Woodlands Walkers with raising over 10K collectively. The second place team was Kempner High School with $9,385. The top individual fundraiser went to Dylan Ensell who raised $8,550 as a part of Mayde Creek High School, the third place team for fundraising. The Gold Sponsor for the walk was Admiral Transfer and Rigging, Inc. The Ginger Man was the Silver Sponsor.

This year was the first year in which walkers and their respective teams were invited to design and create a photo collage with the theme, “What About Friendship?” The collages created were auctioned off as part of silent auction packages.

At the end of the day, despite the importance of raising money, the walk showed the value of empowering those around and how much difference one friend in life can make.