On March 18, around 200 participants from Wake Forest and the Winston-Salem community gathered for the second annual Friendship Walk hosted by Best Buddies.
Actress Lauren Potter from “Glee,” gave a first-hand account of her life experiencees as an actress with Down syndrome. She now travels the country to talk about inclusion and respect for those with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
The Friendship Walk celebrated the progress that Best Buddies has made toward the goal of inclusion.
The Learning Assistance Center and sponsors from the community helped organize the event and secured sign language interpreters.
Following speeches from Best Buddies chapter president Sarah Fine and buddy director Grace-Ashley Rosario, a Best Buddy pair spoke about their relationships with the organization and with one another.
Anna Lanier Fischer and her buddy Ashlyn Rippey spoke about how Best Buddies has impacted their lives.
Fishcer and Rippey were matched as a pair after Fischer volunteered to be a peer within Best Buddies.
Fischer originally joined Best Buddies because of her personal experience of growing up with her older brother, Harris, who has Down syndrome.
“I joined this organization in hopes of gaining that sense of satisfaction that I was impacting the community in a positive way,” Fischer said, “However, I gained something so much more than that. I gained one of my best friends for life.” Rippey, a student at C. Douglas Carter High School in Winston-Salem, is thankful the organization has brought her and Fischer together.
“I do not see and judge people on their ability,” Rippey said. “I love everyone because I accept them for who they are.Thank you Best Buddies for bringing me Anna as my buddy. She is one of my best friends.”
“You begin to recognize their capacity for acceptance and unconditional love, their capacity for seeing the world from a view that can enlighten your own,” Fischer said. “That’s what Best Buddies’ advocates for — inclusive friendship that illuminates the similarities and resists the differences for individuals of all abilities.”
Potter, most known for her role as Becky Jackson from “Glee,” then spoke about the challenges she has faced throughout her life, and how she overcame them.
“I’ve faced many challenges throughout my life, but I wanted to look through the same lens as a person who does not have a mental disability,” Potter said.
“I absolutely loved Potter’s speech,” said Alexa Erb, participant in Best Buddies. “It was spunky, endearing and thought-provoking. Individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities so rarely get to see people that look like them on TV and in the popular media.”
Along with the speakers, the event had performances by several student a capella groups. The cheerleading team from C. Douglas Carter High School also performed.
The Friendship Walk concluded the end of Best Buddies’ Spread the Word to End the Word Week. The week consisted of activities each day to inform Wake Forest students about why the r-word is offenssive to those with disabilities.
Events preceding the Friendship Walk included different activities each day of the week before Friday. Activities included decorating a banner to mark out the word, trivia at Shorty’s, a car smashing and an open mic night at Shorty’s. All events were tailored to encourage students to pledge to stop using the r-word.
“The entire week was phenomenal and showcased the amazing growth this organization has undergone,” Erb said. “But my absolute favorite part had to be the walk. Turning around, I saw Potter leading a huge crowd of Wake Forest students and community members in a walk of solidarity and friendship around the quad. This event turned out to be everything I could have hoped for.”