Oak Mountain hosts Best Buddies Friendship Walk

Published 8:01 am Thursday, April 7, 2022

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By MICHELLE LOVE | Staff Writer

PELHAM – There was a vibrant energy at Oak Mountain State Park as people prepared to walk in the first Alabama Best Buddies Friendship Walk on Saturday morning, April 2.

“There may be a little rain, but we are going to celebrate and have a great time rain or shine,” Best Buddies Regional Director Hannah Marley told the crowd.

Best Buddies International is an organization dedicated to promoting inclusion and acceptance of people with disabilities by creating one-on-one friendships between people with and without intellectual and developmental disabilities. 

This was the first Friendship Walk to take place in Alabama. There currently isn’t a Best Buddies office in the state of Alabama, but due to the efforts of organizations like the University of Alabama and Homewood High School, Best Buddies was able to raise enough funds to make an Alabama office a reality.

The goal of the day was to raise an additional $5,000 dollars by the end of the day to go towards their ultimate goal of $35,000. According to their website, Best Buddies has raised $50,869 which will go towards the program’s expansion.

Before the walk, participants were treated to coffee and donuts from Dunkin’ and were treated to a visit from the Alabama Wildlife Center’s education ambassador owl. WBRC’s Jonathon Hardison served as the emcee of the event, and the crowd heard from various Best Buddies friendship pairs. Even Big Al from the University of Alabama was present to get the crowd moving.

“Best Buddies International has been doing Friendship Walks for 15 years,” Marley said. “We invited people from all over Alabama to get out and celebrate and walk.”

Marley said the large turnout is a testament to how dedicated people are towards fighting adversity.

“I think it really shows how ready and committed people are to the mission of inclusion,” she said. “We have people, volunteers who came here all the way from Huntsville, so they drove all this way to come and celebrate, and I think that shows how ready people are and excited they are to start Best Buddies here in Alabama. It just means so much that they spent the time doing this.”