On Friday, Nov. 11, Midview High School student Andrew Schroeder was recognized for his leadership in raising awareness and funds for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities at the Best Buddies Ohio Champion of the Year Gala. One of 10 Champion Candidates, Andrew raised over $17,000 for a second runner-up finish with the support of his mother and campaign manager Lynne Schroeder.
Best Buddies is a global volunteer movement that creates opportunities for one-to-one friendships, integrated employment, leadership development, and inclusive living for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Introduced in 2021, Champion of the Year is an annual call to action that unites and recognizes the community’s most active leaders in the name of inclusion. Champion Candidates, nominated by Best Buddies staff, participants, and supporters, promote raising funds and awareness in support of the organization’s mission for 10 weeks.
“Seeing the community galvanize around Andrew was the best part of this experience,” said Lynne Schroeder, Andrew’s mother and member of the Ohio Best Buddies Advisory Board. “Our friends, family, and community have always gravitated toward him, but we were truly overwhelmed by the outpouring of support and positivity we received during his campaign. I can’t thank our community enough for all of the ways in which they have embraced and accepted Andrew. He is seen for the wonderful young man that he is and not for his disability.”
As part of Andrew’s recognition, representatives from Midview High School’s Best Buddies chapter (Katie Evin, Advisor; Bobbi Wervey, President; and Cody Cales, member) were invited to speak about the program’s impact in their school and community. Best Buddies school chapters operate as a student-run friendship club, creating buddy pairs between students with and without disabilities.
“Best Buddies has helped support an inclusive school environment in which our students with disabilities have an increased sense of belonging,” said Katie Evin, MHS Best Buddies Advisor and Intervention Specialist. “Their self-esteem and confidence are much improved, and their true selves shine through. From attending school activities and events with their peer buddies to exploring new places during chapter outings, Best Buddies has ensured our students with disabilities have a fulfilling high school experience. This program has truly been instrumental in promoting inclusion, respect, and awareness at Midview High School and in our community”
Midview Local Schools became one of the first districts in Northeast Ohio to establish a chapter after the Best Buddies organization opened a state office in 2016. And, since its inception in 2017, the Midview High School chapter has grown from nine buddy matches to 23.
“Best Buddies has had an immeasurable impact on my life because I know that I am truly making a difference by creating a more accepting environment through new friendships,” said Bobbi Wervey, MHS Best Buddies President. “It is so gratifying to see my peers stepping out of their comfort zones to interact with each other while celebrating our differences. I think Best Buddies is so important because absolutely no one likes to feel left out or excluded, and this organization works directly to eliminate that feeling for people with and without disabilities.”
The Best Buddies second annual Champion of the Year Gala was hosted at Tenk West Bank. Andrew and his friends and family celebrated the night away, enjoying a silent auction, dinner, recognition ceremony, dancing, and Andrew’s favorite part – the Dairy Queen dessert sponsor.