Source, The Times Herald, Gary Puleo
More than a thousand supporters are expected to descend upon King of Prussia Mall for the Best Buddies Friendship Walk on April 28, from 8 to 11 a.m.
“This year is Best Buddies’ 30th anniversary, so this event is all the more meaningful,” said Milli Protheroe, Best Buddies Philadelphia Area Director. “This is our second year at the King of Prussia Mall and we are so excited to return. The folks at the Mall have been so wonderful to work with and we’ve been able to engage many of the stores and restaurants in the event. We’ve partnered with businesses like Shake Shack, California Pizza Kitchen, Vineyard Vines, Alex and Ani, Athleta, Lilly Pulitzer and more to give Walk participants access to exclusive deals and in-store events following the festivities with proceeds benefiting our mission.”
The funds raised through the Friendship Walk help Best Buddies PA to maintain support of over 68 local school chapters, as well as develop new chapters throughout eastern Pennsylvania, Protheroe noted.
“Your financial support also allows us to provide training opportunities to student leaders, match one to one friendships in our Citizens Program for adults and provide individuals with and without disabilities training in public speaking and advocacy to become Best Buddies Ambassadors,” Protheroe explained.
“We welcome all members of the community to join us at the Mall to see our mission of inclusion first hand. Many of our local school chapters are paying it forward and have registered a walk team to raise funds and help ensure that Best Buddies programs are developed in more schools throughout eastern Pennsylvania. You can create your own team or support one of our current teams by visiting www.bestbuddiesfriendshipwalk.org/philadelphia. Once registered, you’ll be provided with your own customizable fundraising page where you can share photos and stories about why you choose to support Best Buddies. Raising funds is as easy as sharing the link to your fundraising page on social media or through email and asking friends, family and coworkers to support your efforts. While the Friendship Walk is a free event, raising $50 will earn you an official 30th Anniversary edition Best Buddies Friendship Walk t-shirt.”
Businesses and organizations can still become official sponsors of the 2019 Best Buddies Friendship Walk. Benefits include: complimentary vendor table at the event, logo featured on the event website, BBPA social media accounts, event signage and more.
Businesses can also donate refreshments, giveaways, coupons or an activity for walk participants.
“Items can be included in participant welcome bags or you can join us to distribute them and get some quality time with our crowd,” Protheroe said.
Many may remember the Best Buddies signature event, TasteBuds, which was held at at Doubletree Valley Forge in King of Prussia last November.
The evening was created to give guests the chance to experience the Best Buddies mission of inclusion first hand, while enjoying local cuisine, live music, and a silent auction, noted Protheroe.
Participating restaurants included Davio’s Northern Italian Steakhouse: Kriebel’s Custom Bakery: Maggiano’s Little Italy; Outback Steakhouse’ Nourish’d; Simply Good Jars; Choolaah Indian BBQ; Mistral; Cantina Laredo; Amis Trattoria and Anthony’s Ristorante.
According to the organization’s website, bestbuddies.org, Best Buddies International was founded by CEO Anthony Kennedy Shriver in 1989 to “foster one-to-one friendships between people with and without intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). Recognizing the tremendous volunteer potential of university students, Shriver first inspired his college peers to personally collaborate in expanding the realm of opportunities that people with IDD should experience.”
Today, through Shriver’s stewardship and entrepreneurial spirit, Best Buddies has grown into a leading nonprofit entity with increasing international reach across six continents, establishing a global volunteer movement that creates opportunities for one-to-one friendships, integrated employment and leadership development for people with IDD.
“We have programs in all 50 states and 50 countries internationally,” Protheroe said. “We have programs that pair students with and without disabilities in school friendship programs to promote a more inclusive community and decrease bullying and things like that. We also recently developed a program for adults with disabilities, where we pair them with volunteers. After kids with disabilities graduate out of the school system, a lot of times there aren’t a lot of employment options or continuing education options, so their social circle really shrinks down at that point. So we’re now working to recruit participants from the community for that program.”
Best Buddies Pennsylvania is headquartered at 491 Allendale Road, Suite 302, King of Prussia.