Movers and Shakers: Best Buddies shake it up this summer

Abbey Simon and Jack Hennessey attend Best Buddies Leadership Conference over the summer.


Abbey Simon

Conference attendees from Illinois

When asking friends and students how they spent their summer, the average response didn’t stray too far from “just relaxed with friends,” or “had sports practice every day.” However, some responses were told with a little more passion, and a little more determination.

While the majority of students look forward to spending their summer relaxing and participating in “leisurely” activities, others go into summer with a different attitude; driven, eager, and ready to take on a new crusade.

Juniors Abbey Simon and Jack Hennessey spent their summer exploring their passion and giving back to their newly founded club, Best Buddies. In a nutshell, the club’s mission is to develop relationships with students who have cognitive and physical disabilities, and each student gets paired with a “buddy” to hang out with and attend school functions with.

As co-presidents of Best Buddies, Simon and Hennessey are more determined than ever to share their dedication to this cause with everyone Glenbard West, and are doing so by giving up a few days of their summer to attend a conference for it.

The two juniors spent three days at the Best Buddies Leadership Conference at the University of Indiana at Bloomington this past July, where they learned how to manage their club at West better.

“We just learned a lot of things about how to run a club better; how to spread the message of the club, how to fundraise and work with your board, things like that,” states Simon.

The conference consisted of twenty one thousand Best Buddies leaders from middle schools, high schools, and colleges all over the world. “We even met some people from Egypt there,” Simon adds.

Simon and Hennessey had the privilege of hearing from guest speaker Lauren Potter, an actress with Down syndrome who starred in the well-known television show, Glee. They also met the first man with Down syndrome to star in a nationally produced movie, as well as hearing an incredible musical performance by a blind woman with cerebral palsy.

Both of the juniors agree that the conference was extremely helpful, and are excited to try out their new tactics for making the club even more successful this year; “I learned a lot of fundraising ideas and how to spread the message to the community about Best Buddies, it will really help us for the years to come,” says Hennessey.

Helping students with mental and physical disabilities has been a passion of both Abbey and Jack for a number of years now, ever since they were heavily involved in the Best Buddies program at Hadley Junior High.

“Best Buddies isn’t just a club to us, it’s a lifestyle,” states Simon, “We’d really like to keep this in our lives no matter what career path we choose.”

Abbey and Jack’s passion and determination for what they love to do can be a reminder for all of us here at West that high school isn’t all about straight As and honor rolls. Finding something that motivates you is equally as important, and finding the courage to be proactive about it is even more vital.

So, while reflecting back on your summer, whether it was filled with sports, friends, T.V., or tanning, hopefully you found some time for the things you’re passionate about, some time to be a mover and shaker.