Best Buddies to split from national chapter


Tim Brewer helps Frank Brice Hartley with his homework.

One to one relationships have been the National Best Buddies model, but ETHS’s use of the family model, which accommodates more students, has led to friction between the school chapter and the organization’s governing body.

“The one to one model is no longer a viable option for us,” said Leslie Wenzel, sponsor of Best Buddies. “We reached a critical point six years ago where there were too many students and we had to change.”

The one to one model, which involves one buddy to one associate member, has been used by Best Buddies since it was founded in 1989. The family model involves a group of students being paired with a buddy, with two leaders in each group.

When ETHS first started using the family model in 2010, the national chapter had no issue with it. However, three years ago, the national organization wanted the school chapter to switch back to the family model.

“The one to one model doesn’t work in a large scale high school,” said Wenzel. “There are just too many wonderful students who want to be involved.”

According to the Best Buddies International mission statement, one to one friendships are the best way to improve social skills for people with disabilities and help them integrate into college and employment.

ETHS is not the first school to break off from the national chapter. Deerfield High School left Best Buddies several years ago, naming their new club Warrior Buddies.

“We took the framework of the Best Buddies program and made some adjustments which resulted in our Warrior Buddies program,” said Stacy Wood, founder of Warrior Buddies.

Separating from the national chapter is a lengthy process, and Wenzel has been communicating with the Best Buddies branch in Illinois in order to make it happen. However, Wenzel said that it difficult to make progress.

If ETHS does split from the national chapter, there would be a few changes to the program. First, the club would have to change their name from Best Buddies to a new name, most likely Wildkit Buddies. Second, participants would no longer have to fill out as much paperwork to turn into the organization’s governing body. Third, they would no longer have to fundraise for the governing body, but for the ETHS program only.

“A split would allow our program to focus more on the friendships, and less on the nonsense the national chapter wants from us,” said junior Tim Brewer.

Wenzel has been considering a split for the past five years, and the student board has been talking about the matter since September.