Buddies Club is back with a bang!

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On Sept. 28, Buddies Club welcomes back students and leaders with an ice cream social. (L. Schmit)

Lauren Schmit

A hot, sunny afternoon was filled with smiles, activities, and ice cream at the most recent Buddies Club Social on Sept. 28. Within the enclosed outdoor area, the interactions and inclusivity created a judgment-free zone. The importance of getting involved and getting to know people through fun games truly shines in Buddies Club.

“I’ve been doing Buddies Club all four years of high school. Freshman year, I was a member of the club so I just would attend the socials and I just really wanted to get involved. Sophomore year, I became social chair and helped make socials and then my junior year I became secretary. Now I’m the president which is super cool and I’m really excited,” said Allison Braaten, president of Buddies Club.

Braaten has an older brother with special needs and getting a role in Buddies Club made her feel closer to him. She feels that it is very important to create an inclusive environment for everyone. One of her biggest goals this year for Buddies Club is to get everyone at Huntley High School involved in some way with the club. This social event was just a small step in the right direction.

According to Braaten, one of their big events coming up is Spooky Buddies on Oct. 26. from 5 p.m to 8 p.m for the whole community. Buddies Club has been trying to get as many people and clubs involved to have a fun time with a trunk or treat, food, and many activities.

“We’re trying to get all of Huntley High School involved. National Honor Society and the RAD are collaborating with us for Spooky Buddies because October is Disability Awareness Month, so it’s perfect timing. They are co-sponsoring the event with us and are helping to plan and get everything in order,” said Melanie Gyorke, vice president of Buddies Club.

Gyorke has been doing Buddies Club for three years and she feels more confident now that she has been leading in the social events. Buddies Club has offered a welcoming and comforting environment to her that she can really just be herself. She enjoys spending time with students at Huntley High School with special needs by getting to know them through these social events.

“This is a rebuilding year for Buddies Club because we were all on Zoom last year. There was a loss of our members because some didn’t join the Zoom. We’re just trying to build our club back up to where it was,” said Zach Leitzke, social chair member of Buddies Club.

According to Leitzke, this year is an opportunity to make school more normal for students with disabilities and students in general. A goal for Buddies Club this year is to do some more teaching-style meetings just to raise awareness about the appropriate ways to handle yourself around buddies.

“They’re all equal to us, and I think that’s super important to highlight and make sure that we are respecting them as much as they respect us,” Leitzke said.

Buddies Club has been brainstorming many new and exciting ideas just to get back into the swing of the school year. Peer Buddies and Family Buddies are an opportunity to have a more one-on-one connection with a student with disabilities.

“And this year with Buddies, we did make a new kind of structure to how the friendships work so we have Peer Buddies, which are those one-on-one friendships; we have Family Buddies, which it’s just kind of like a small group that can get together outside of school can hang out in school,” Braaten said.

Buddies Club social events are every fourth Tuesday of every month with a different theme or fun treat. Everyone is welcome to join for an amazing opportunity to make connections.