Homestead High School seniors Alyssa O’Brien and Lily McCann met in fifth grade, but they didn't become good friends until they were sophomores.

Thanks to Best Buddies International, the girls were paired together and their friendship blossomed.

Best Buddies pairs students with disabilities with a student "buddy." The pair then meets up at least two times a month. During these meetings, they can do various activities to get to know each other better.

“Alyssa and I like to go bowling and get food,” McCann, the chapter president at Homestead, said. “Everyone gains a friend.”

McCann said she got interested with Best Buddies during freshman orientation, where she saw the “very inviting” logo. She said there are around 70 chapters in Wisconsin and suggests students check out what’s offered at their school. There are adult programs as well.

Homestead has about 75 members of the program with 19 peer-buddy pairs.

McCann said this year had nearly a 100-percent turnout at the meetings, which she attributed to the “amped up” activities. Previously, the activities consisted of things like making snowflakes out of paper but now the activities are at a more high school level.

“It’s just a really good feeling to know that you’re helping someone,” McCann said. “This year has been a huge success.”

Part of the mission of Best Buddies International is to integrate people with intellectual or developmental disabilities into the workplace and community.

“It’s fun to know while doing that you gain a friend,” McCann said.

After high school, McCann is looking to attend the University of Wisconsin-Madison. O’Brien said she wants to become a preschool teacher.

“It’s going to be harder when we go off to school, but our friendship is strong enough and we have each other’s phone numbers and email,” McCann said.

When asked what she thinks of Best Buddies, O’Brien simply said she likes it and it’s fun.

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