Walk for the disabled

Walk for the disabled

Amanda Nell said she still wonders whether her father would have been the same person after his fatal accident. She said she dealt with the obstacle by turning it into an opportunity to help others.

“You have to take that circumstance and create an influence off of it, and you can’t just sit there,” said Nell, a senior kinesiology major and Best Buddies chapter president. “You can’t just let life happen, you have to make a positive difference because that’s the only way.”

She got involved with Best Buddies, a campus group connecting UW-Eau Claire students with those who have developmental disabilities.

Saturday, the organization raised about $6,000 at its first Best Buddies Friendship Walk held at Eau Claire.

The proceeds go toward funding state programs which provide one-on-one friendships, leadership development and integrated job opportunities for individuals with developmental disabilities.

Andrew Radloss, a junior elementary education and learning disabilities major, said he plans on working with students with disabilities as a teacher post-graduation and attended the event to show his support for the cause.

“It was a really rewarding experiencing everybody coming together,” he said. “True friendships can come in many shapes and sizes and people of different backgrounds. This (event) shows me that excellence comes in many ways, not just academics, but sheer emotion and happiness.”

Nell said there are over 120 students involved in the organization and 70 community members that are looking to be best buddies.

Friendship Walk Coordinator Sierra Hoover, a junior early childhood special education major, said planning for the event began last year, but she got involved in the organization as a freshman.

Hoover said she has grown attached to her buddy Matthew and thinks of him just as another one of her friends.

“We built a really awesome friendship over the past three years that is just an amazing experience that I wouldn’t trade for the world,” Hoover said.

She said they go to movies, go out to eat, grab ice cream and recently visited an apple orchard.

“I go to his Special Olympics swim meets and cheer him on and make signs,” Hoover said.

Angie Hershey, a senior elementary education and special education learning disabilities major and member of Best Buddies, also attended the event to show support for her best buddy Michelle who has cerebral-palsy.

Although she wasn’t sure how excited her buddy would be about the event, she said the best part was when Michelle decided to join
in and walk.

“We started off walking with everybody and we probably made it half a mile,” she said. “As we were walking back Michelle was bubbling with excitement. She was super proud she participated in it.”

Nell said she hopes this is the first of many more best buddy walks to come to Eau Claire.

“We’re all in the story of life, we’re all here together going through life but we all have our own chapters and we’re all creating our own stories within the book of life based on our abilities and what we can do,” she said. “But the only way we can do that is if we have a positive attitude towards inclusion and acceptance of all people.”