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Kenmore East Becomes 1st WNY School to Host Best Buddies Chapter

On October 30, Buffalo Sabres Captain Jack Eichel and Sabres mascot Sabretooth surprised members of Kenmore East’s Best Buddies chapter during their Halloween party.

This has been a special year for Kenmore East High School, which has become the very first school in the greater Buffalo area to be home to Best Buddies, an international organization dedicated to creating opportunities for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD).

The Kenmore East chapter was established at the start of the 2019-20 school year and is now thriving. In just a short time, it has become a special part of the Kenmore East community, providing opportunities for students of all abilities to forge new friendships and build an even more welcoming and inclusive school community.

“Best Buddies programs help people with intellectual and developmental disabilities form meaningful friendships with their peers, secure jobs, live independently, improve public speaking, self-advocacy and communication skills, and feel valued by society,” said Kenmore East special education teacher Kathleen Struckmann.

Best Buddies is the world’s largest international organization dedicated to ending the social, physical, and economic isolation of the more than 200 million people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

The Kenmore East chapter started in the fall. Barbara Wakefield, a parent of one of Struckmann’s students, was involved with a Best Buddies chapter at a local college and let her know that the Best Buddies leadership was looking to expand their program to high schools in the Buffalo area. She spoke very highly of the program and the opportunities that it could provide, according to Struckmann.

After further discussions with Lindsay Jewett, the area director for New York State’s Best Buddies organization, “Kenmore East seemed like the absolute perfect fit to host a chapter of Best Buddies,” Struckmann said.

“At East, we have a number of classes with students with IDD and a large number of peers that are invested in our school community and have demonstrated compassion and empathy by their participation in inclusive programs East already offers, like the Bulldog Harmony Dancers and Special Olympics,” she said.

October 30 was a very exciting day for Kenmore East and its new Best Buddies chapter as Buffalo Sabres Captain Jack Eichel and Sabres mascot Sabretooth surprised the students during their Halloween party. Struckmann is looking forward to many more special moments and opportunities to come for the new student group.

“We are proud to be the first high school chapter of Best Buddies in the Western New York area and looking forward to watching the program continue to grow,” she said.

To learn more about Best Buddies, visit www.bestbuddies.org and www.bestbuddies.org/newyork.