LABRADOR STRAITS, NL – The Best Buddies Labrador Straits Academy (LSA) chapter travelled to Ottawa to attend the Best Buddies Student Leadership Conference Nov. 3, and enjoyed a fun-filled day of friendship and sharing.
Five of the Best Buddies LSA team members attended, including students Taylor Groves, Ryan French and Thomas Flynn, chaperone Calvin Flynn, and LSA teacher Maisie Groves.
“It was great to meet Best Buddies teams from other schools and to learn about the kinds of activities they are engaged in and how the program is working for them,” said Groves.
Best Buddies Canada is a national charitable organization that operates in countries around the world. It’s designed to create opportunities for one-to-one friendships and leadership development for people with intellectual and development disabilities, and autism.
The LSA chapter is the first and only Best Buddies chapter operating in Labrador, and has helped students at the school develop friendships with their peers.
“Best Buddies is a phenomenal organization that promotes caring and friendship for all those involved,” said Groves. “It recognizes that every single student is important and has something special to offer in the world.”
The conference keynote speaker at the event stressed the uniqueness and value of every individual.
“Our keynote speaker emphasized that everyone has something special inside but sometimes it takes the caring from a special friend or buddy to help bring it out,” said Groves. “Seeing the dynamics, most notably, the closeness between different buddy pairs was so heart-warming. It made us feel so proud of being part of this amazing organization.”
Groves believes every school should have a Best Buddies chapter.
And she’s hoping LSA will inspire other schools to get involved and start their own chapters in the province.
“Every school everywhere has at least one student who could use a friend; sadly, some are very much alone in many ways. This program helps break down stereotypes and teaches empathy and compassion while it shows the effect of real friendship in action.”
Best Buddies LSA received financial support from community sponsors who made the trip to Ottawa possible, including the International Grenfell Association, NunatuKavut Government, and Cartwright-L’Anse au Clair MHA Lisa Dempster.
“They all financially contributed and by doing so, proved they were also believers in the Best Buddies mission,” said Groves.
In Ottawa, Labrador MP Yvonne Jones provided a private tour of the Houses of Parliament. Participants also attended an NHL hockey game with the Ottawa Senators to top off the experience.
The group also went bowling, swimming, and trick-or-treating.
“We used up every waking hour to do as much as we humanly could,” said Groves.
Best Buddies LSA appreciates the support of LSA principal Colleen O’Brien, “who was brimming with enthusiasm and support for this venture,” said Groves.
“Knowing we were going with the school’s blessing and strength behind us would make for a perfect experience.
“It seemed like all the stars aligned at the right time. Our excursion proved that when people’s hearts are in the right place and everyone comes together for the common good, wonderful things can happen.”