Our son Marcus was born with a genetic syndrome and has moderate developmental delays. We moved to Maury County in 2012, and Marcus started sixth grade at Whitthorne Middle School that August. Our family was nervous, as we had come from a school where Marcus was loved on, and I knew he was in good hands everyday when at school. We quickly learned that Marcus’ teachers at Whitthorne were going to be a great fit for him! They had high expectations for Marcus and would often give him the push he needed to finish or accomplish certain tasks we would have normally done for him! The Whitthorne Special Education teachers even implemented a fabulous buddy program, where regular education students apply to spend part of their study hall in the Special Ed class as buddies with the kids doing fun activities and building relationships. This was when our family met Anna Cat. She was immediately drawn to Marcus, and that was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
Fast forward a couple of years and Central High School, along with the help of a few fabulous girls, brought the Best Buddies club to the school. I had heard of Best Buddies from a friend in Murfreesboro and was so excited when Central started this program. Best Buddies is an international organization that helps those with and without intellectual developmental disabilities with friendships, employment, and leadership skills. Each student in Marcus’ class is paired with a buddy. Most of the time, if the match is a good fit, the buddies remain paired throughout high school. Marcus and Anna Cat have been “buddies” since sixth grade!
Anna Cat and Lilli (another Best Buddy) have taken Marcus bowling, out to eat, and to the movies. We have even vacationed at the beach with Anna Cat’s family! Marcus truly doesn’t know he is any different from other kids at school! Last year, he attended the Best Buddies Prom at Bridgestone Arena. In addition, there are local events where buddies can go bowling or swimming, see a movie, and even go shopping at Christmas time for the buddies. Another Best Buddies event is the Friendship Walk (one mile) in Nashville, which Marcus is currently raising funds for.
We are so grateful for the impact Best Buddies has had on Marcus and in the halls at his school. The inclusion programs that Best Buddies fosters has helped build
relationships between many of the kids in our community that will last years beyond their school days.
If you’d like to learn more about Best Buddies in Maury county there are multiple ways for you to get involved, even if your child’s school doesn’t have a Best Buddies program. Columbia Academy doesn’t have a Special Ed class like Central High School, so their “buddies” partner with King’s Daughters’ School here in Columbia. You can visit http://www.bestbuddies.org to read more about Best Buddies and see if there is a chapter at your local school!