By Madeline Braley | Contributor
Best Buddies is all about fitting in with friends who accept you for who you are with your disabilities. I have been a part of this incredible program for the past 7 years. Through Best Buddies, I have learned that being different does not define me, and it has made me more confident at school and in my community. When I joined the Plano West Best Buddies chapter in 2012, I never dreamed that those new friendships would lead to my nomination for Homecoming Queen. I was so blessed that my boyfriend and Best Buddy member, Austin Igo, and I were elected King and Queen. It was fun to have a buddy in high school to help guide me and share school pep rallies, sports and dances! One of my favorite events is the Winter Formal given by Best Buddies for all the local chapters. I love to get a new dress and dance all night.
After graduating high school, I joined the Best Buddies chapter at SMU. Without Best Buddies I would never have gotten to spend time on a college campus with my peers and make new friendships. We have socials, scavenger hunts, tailgates and carnivals with my SMU friends. My favorite activity was the fashion show with my buddy, Maddie. I was asked to attend the Best Buddies Leadership conference in Indiana. I learned how to write speeches and how not to be scared to do public speaking. My training gave me the independence to speak for special needs people. Since chosen to be a Best Buddies Global Ambassador, I now speak at events and fundraisers on behalf of Best Buddies. I really like to tell about the positive things Best Buddies does for students and the special needs community. Being a part of this group has given me so many wonderful memories with amazing friends. The best part of being in Best Buddies is sharing my personality with everyone around me and feeling the love from my friends.
Editor’s Note: In addition to all of her other inspiring accomplishments, Madeline, age 24, is now a published writer.