by Pamela Young, Published February 27, 2013
Students at Eastern Michigan University and the University of Michigan will put their best foot forward when they host their first Best Buddies Michigan Friendship Walk, Sunday, March 24, 10 a.m., at Gallup Park, 3000 Fuller Rd., in Ann Arbor.
Best Buddies is an international non-profit organization that provides quality one-to-one friendships, leadership opportunities and jobs for people in the community with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Eastern Michigan and U-M have Best Buddies student chapters with students and buddies who are 18 to 26 years old.
Buddies and student volunteers will walk the mile-long course and then end the morning with refreshments, music and live entertainment by talented buddies.
"We hope this walk will promote social inclusion as well as disability awareness," said Megan Hoorn, of South Lyon, who is coordinator of EMU's program.
Although the students hope to raise their goal of $2,000 for their individual programs, the major goals are to provide social opportunities for young adults with disabilities and to increase awareness of disabilities, says Sarah Mueller, an EMU student from Sterling Heights.
EMU and U-M chapters are publicizing the event and raising funds through the website firstgiving.com/friendshipwalk.
"This is a great opportunity to not only raise funds for both chapters, but also promote our programs as well as other organizations in the area," said Sarah Mueller, of Sterling Heights, and special events coordinator for EMU's chapter.
Both Hoorn and Mueller have sisters, ages 7 and 17 respectively, with Down syndrome.
"My sister has shown me how important it is to appreciate every achievement, big or small," Hoorn said. "We hope others will begin to see a person's disability should not cause social exclusion."
The friendship awareness walk isn't the only opportunity for people with disabilities. EMU and U-M Best Buddies chapters host activities year around like the upcoming Outer Space Ball, that offers music, snacks and various activities.
Online registration is available at http://www.firstgiving.com/bestbuddiesmichigan/bbmi-friendship-walk.The site allows volunteers to register, make a donation as well as design a donation page that can be easily shared with family and friends. The cost for pre-registration is $15 per person, which gets participants a t-shirt, pizza, drink and activities. Onsite registration is $20.