Best Buddies has long been one of LM’s most popular and active clubs, and to close out a fruitful and exciting year, over seventy members participated in a walk at the Philadelphia Zoo on Saturday, April 29, in order to raise money for Best Buddies Philadelphia.

Best Buddies International, of which LM and Philadelphia are affiliates, is an organization that promotes leadership and work opportunities for people with developmental and intellectual disabilities. LM’s program, started about nine years ago by Special-Ed teacher Heather Van Horn, is primarily geared toward forming mutually beneficial friendships between students where both parties are full participants and contribute equally to the relationship. The LM chapter hosts numerous events during the year such as a Halloween party, a trip to Linvilla Orchards, and this past month, a walk to raise money.

The walk itself is an annual event, with last year’s held at LM. The walk pits Best Buddies programs against each other in a friendly competition to fundraise for Best Buddies Philadelphia. This year, LM Best Buddies was able to collect over $3,500 that went toward the $55,000 overall raised toward the Best Buddies Philadelphia annual budget. Usually, the walk is held at a school track, with various accompanying festivities including expert face painting and raffles. However, most participants this year didn’t seem to mind the activities being supplanted by the course walk at the Philadelphia Zoo, since the Best Buddies and their friends and family who participated in the walk, with members from all the congregated chapters totaling over 10,000 in number, had the whole zoo and all of the special exhibitions to themselves for an entire morning.

Many of the LM Best Buddies who attended the walk found it to be an amazing culmination of the friendships that they’d forged over the year and had nothing but praise for the zoo experience and all the unique animals. Amanda Steinberg ’17 noted that, “Julia Brown and I had a really fun time, and we were lucky because it was a super nice day. We started playing games where we would try to come up with our own names for the animals.” According to Julia Brown, “all the animals were amazing... I don’t have a favorite.” Peer buddy Nolan Shapiro ’17, one of the presidents of LM Best Buddies Club, also participated in the walk alongside his buddy Cameron Chesen ’18 and their parents. He found himself drawn toward “the monkeys swinging by freely above [his] head, and the lions and giraffes making their way out of their slumber,” a sentiment shared by Georgia Callahan ’18, who added that she and her buddy, Lexi Ginzburg ’17, also enjoyed observing “the two big jungle cats and the majestic tiger.”

Shapiro added that LM Best Buddies is about much more than just participating in fundraising events. Paired groups usually make each other’s acquaintance at the beginning of the year through a couple of lunch dates and phone calls, but from that point on, the established friendship can go anywhere. Steinberg and her buddy Brown nowadays often go out to get their nails done or will just hang out and talk about how things are going. Kyle Glover, on the other hand, enjoys relaxing with his peer buddies Tyler Mooney ’20 and Jack Raymond ’20 by playing hours of video games, in addition to spending time with them at the monthly events that LM Best Buddies holds.

Some of these events are held in conjunction with Best Buddies Philadelphia (i.e. the recent Zoo walk and March megaprom) while others are independent events like the Halloween Party and the Talent Show, where buddies were able to demonstrate the talents that they’ve been practicing for each other. All these events serve as great ways for buddies to spend time with each other and expand their budding friendships. As Steinberg explains, “Even though Julia and I are leaving high school and will be pretty far from each other next year, I know we will keep in touch. The connection I have made with Julia has been unmatched by any other club I have participated in throughout high school.”