Each year PolicyStat gives its employees an opportunity to take two “Volunteer Days” at an organization of his or her choice. I chose to be an Everybody Counts volunteer at a local grade school. Everybody Counts is an interactive, educational disability awareness program for young people. The goal is to help everyone know the person behind the disability and to create a climate in which we all feel at ease with our differences. The program is designed to allow children to experience both the feelings and challenges of coping with a wide range of disabilities.
I have been an Everybody Counts volunteer for many years. This year my role was to host one of the guest speakers – Katie, a young lady with Down Syndrome. Katie is a Buddy Ambassador for Best Buddies International. Katie shared her challenges and achievements in life with the students. She talked about Best Buddies – a global program that creates opportunities for one-to-one friendships, integrated employment and leadership development for people with intellectual disabilities. Best Buddies Indiana has middle school, high school and college chapters throughout the state.
It was very exciting to see how interested the students were in the Best Buddies program. After hearing Katie speak, several kids expressed an interest in joining Best Buddies when they move on to high school. My daughter is a member of the Westfield High School Best Buddies Chapter. Katie has become a dear friend over the years, and I look forward to hosting her next year.