Noblesville West Best Buddies Program Has Three Teachers in Running for Champion of the Year

Writer  /  Benjamin Lashar
Photography Provided

Mental health treatment has vastly improved over the years. There are more resources available for people with IDD (intellectual or developmental disabilities) than ever before. However, while improved resources are good, they are meaningless without companionship. People with IDD want to be treated like equals, not patients. Just like everybody else, they want to be part of their community.

One local club is ensuring that people with IDD feel included at a young age — The Noblesville West Middle School Best Buddies Club.

The Best Buddies club is a worldwide nonprofit. According to their website, The Best Buddies club not only aims to end “social, physical and economic isolation” of people with IDD but is also the world’s largest organization dedicated to doing so. The Best Buddies Club primarily forms friendships between people who do and do not have IDD, helping people with IDD increase communication and social skills. While the Best Buddies Club offers services to IDD patients of all ages, some of their most heartwarming work is done with children.

The perfect example is the Noblesville West Middle School chapter of Best Buddies. Abby McKean, special Olympics volleyball coach, proposed the club a few years ago. She approached two special education teachers, Zella Hendrickson and Anne Maslanka, about being co-sponsors. The club would follow the Best Buddies format of paring an IDD student with a non-IDD student, with the hope of fostering friendship and social interaction.

Hendrickson and Maslanka agreed, and the Noblesville West Middle School’s Best Buddies club was born. Zella Hendrickson notes the importance of such a club.

“Students with IDD often enter the same building and walk the same hallways as their peers but are frequently left out of social activities,” she says.

The Best Buddies Club serves as a social outlet for these students.

The club meets the first Tuesday every month. During these meetings, pairs of buddies work together on community projects or do fun activities like watching movies. In addition, the Best Buddies Club has a trip outside school once a month. Hendrickson says this fall the club is planning on “visiting Spencer Farms, serving dinner at White River Christian Church Community Dinner and making holiday ornaments at Kiln Creations.”

Hendrikson adds that both IDD students and non-IDD students really enjoy the club.

“It’s all about acceptance and inclusion,” Hendrikson says. “Everyone involved feels accepted and included. You see this happen not only in our meetings but throughout our school. For example, one of our Best Buddies members, eighth-grade student Noah Morris, is the Manager for the 8th grade NWMS Football Team. How cool is that?”

The club is still pretty new, only being in its third year. However, Noblesville West’s Best Buddies club has accomplished a great deal in its three years. They have been steadily increasing membership every year and have received recognition from Best Buddies headquarters.

“Last May NWMS Best Buddies was awarded Middle School Chapter of the Year,” Hendrickson says.

Recently Team West had three teachers, McKean, Maslanka and Hendrickson, nominated to the 2018 Indiana Best Buddies Champion of the Year, which recognizes the community’s most active leaders.

In the future, the Noblesville West’s Best Buddies Club plans on continuing their tradition of fellowship and community. Anyone who wants to get involved in the club and possibly offer sponsorships or event opportunities is encouraged to reach out to Noblesville West Middle School to do so.

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