The student news site of Westford Academy

WA Ghostwriter

The student news site of Westford Academy

WA Ghostwriter

The student news site of Westford Academy

WA Ghostwriter

Best Buddies booms in attendance with newly imagined Dance-a-Thon event

Provided by Keilana daRosa
The Best Buddies club gathers for a photo in the aux gym during their first-ever Dance-a-Thon.

A colorful assortment of streamers and posters drape the hallways leading to the aux gym. Classic remixes of songs pour up the stairwell as students grab hands in concentric circles, erupting into laughter as they break. It is the first time WA’s seen anything like it: the Best Buddies first-ever Dance-a-Thon.

On Thursday, Nov. 9 from 2 to 4 p.m, the WA Best Buddies club hosted their first annual Dance-a-Thon, an innovative fundraiser where students paid for tickets to dance with their friends. This is one of many firsts for the club as they readjusted to the nearly 350% attendance increase since the start of this school year.

Best Buddies has been present at Westford Academy for over a decade, but the organization it stems from was founded in 1989. The group aims to facilitate friendships, specifically with people who have intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDDs) and those who do not, as well as preparing individuals to enter the workforce. With programs in 49 countries around the world and in all 50 states, Best Buddies strives for a more inclusive world. 

“IDDs are intellectual and developmental disorders such as Autism, Down Syndrome, and things that affect people’s motor skills, which makes it hard for them to function in certain social situations,” senior club president Keilana daRosa said. “By facilitating social skills, it opens up job opportunities.”

Best Buddies pins covered the table outside the aux gym, given with the purchase of a ticket to the Dance-a-Thon. (Kate Kelly)

The Dance-a-Thon was an idea introduced to WA by the Best Buddies club, originally proposed by junior club treasurer, Leah Bordenca, and Dean Betsy Murphy, then fully executed by all members. To advertise the event, students at the club spent a meeting decorating numerous posters. 

“We definitely wanted to do a fundraiser, and we know our buddies love dancing. It’s their favorite thing,” junior club vice president Laney Mach said. “So we were trying to figure out how to incorporate dancing and fundraising, and we came up with this idea. It’s our first one and we just set up fliers hoping people would show up, and we had a good turnout.”

Tickets were sold based on how long a student wanted to dance: $3 for thirty minutes, $5 for one hour, and $10 for the full event. Every ticket came with a Best Buddies pin and free snacks, while music was played from a rented DJ. 

Club officers including daRosa, Mach, and Bordenca were taken aback by the exponential growth of the club at their first meeting of the year. With previous attendance numbers between 20 to 40 students per meeting, the group now expects around 76, and additionally has 133 students in their Google Classroom.

“I think as a team, we took that with a really open mind and just altered our activities every week,” Bordenca said. “Everyone that’s come into the club has come back, which is amazing. And I think every week people are leaving with a smile on their face, and that’s all we want.”

To combat the stress levels that busy rooms can induce, WA Best Buddies established one-on-one pairings at the beginning of the year, partnering buddies and other club members to pursue continual goals of unity and facilitating relationships.

“My favorite part about Best Buddies is just making new friendships and making sure everyone’s included,” sophomore club member Eliana Donaruma said.

Furthermore, meetings were moved from a classroom setting into the upper cafe to fit all of its participants. Officers attribute this primarily to marketing via social media, which makes the kind-hearted environment of the club more visible to their peers. 

“I also just think that the buddies are so integrated in everybody’s everyday life. They do adaptive Physical Education, you see them in the hallway,” daRosa said. “They’re all so nice and friendly, and I think people just see that and they want to be a part of something like this.” 

New club advisors were also needed this year, as previous supervisors Jill Sidelinger and Cheryl Denaro recently took positions in a different school district. Science teacher Connie Menice stepped up to the opening, recruiting her fellow biology teacher, John DiGennaro to co-advise.

“I would say my favorite part about the club is the inclusivity and everyone feeling welcome. I think students enjoy it because they can just come and be who they are,” Menice said. “Sometimes school can be cliquey and this club is the opposite of that.”

Poster made during a Best Buddies club meeting and hung in the stairwell leading to the aux gym. (Kate Kelly)

While the Best Buddies fundraisers have some base in lucrative motives to renew the club’s presence at WA, friendship and inclusivity maintain the pillars of the group’s decisions. The Dance-a-Thon and other events provide alternatives for everyone participating.

“We have a quiet room in case people get too overwhelmed, just to take a quick breather,” deRosa said. “That’s important in high stress events. We’re trying to maybe incorporate that into homecoming next year so that we can make it inclusive to everyone.”

The club also held their annual Best Buddies Football Night the following day on November 10. Students involved had the opportunity to participate in the school’s game, performing the coin toss and boosting morale with the cheer team. 

The Best Buddies are full of excitement standing on the sidelines during their annual Football Night. (Provided by Keilana daRosa)

Looking to the future, Best Buddies hopes to expand their activity scheduling while also maintaining group favorites, such as their end-of-year formal dance and a booth at the upcoming Holiday Bazaar.

“We’re going to be selling friendship bracelets [at the Bazaar,] because I think that really goes along with our club,” Mach said. 

Best Buddies continues to meet every other week on Wednesdays from 2 to 3 p.m. after school and can be found on Instagram @wa.bestbuddies.

Leave a Comment
More to Discover
About the Contributor
Kate Kelly, Features Editor
Hi, my name is Kate Kelly and I’m a sophomore writing as a Features editor for the Ghostwriter. This is my second consecutive year on the staff and I'm excited for more to come! I also enjoy listening to music, playing soccer, and biking.

Comments (0)

All WA Ghostwriter Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *