The Best Buddies Chapter at Mountain Pointe High School is gearing up for the 2014 Arizona Friendship Walk this weekend at Kiwanis Park in Tempe.

Olivia Johnson, president of Mountain Pointe’s Best Buddies, said that the club was a way to include each student in the school’s environment, whether they have special needs or disability.

There are nearly 50 students at Mountain Pointe involved with the club.

“Best Buddies is an international nonprofit organization whose mission is the integration of people with intellectual and development disabilities into society,” she said. “The Best Buddies Chapter is a school club where student members create one-to-one friendships with other student members with mental or physical disabilities.”

Johnson has been involved with Best Buddies since her freshman year, and has been a “Peer Buddy” throughout her years at Mountain Pointe.

A “Peer Buddy” is a student who is matched up with another student who has a mental or physical disability to form a unique friendship.

“The buddies at Mountain Pointe are the strongest people I know. They face challenges everyday that many of us could never imagine, and although some may prove tough to overcome, their perseverance never runs dry,” Johnson said. “The positive energy each of them carries is inspiring and their smiles are contagious.”

This year’s walk will host every Best Buddies chapter in Arizona, and promises to be a celebration of all our Best Buddies friendships, Johnson said.

“Although the student ‘buddies’ with mental or physical disabilities are usually only paired with one ‘peer buddy,’ a fellow student, we work to make sure that everyone develops friendships with each other,” she said.

Leslie Small, Johnson’s Best Buddy, said that she was looking forward to participating in the event and being able to see her friends.

The 2014 Arizona Friendship Walk will take place this Saturday, April 26, at Kiwanis Park, 5500 S. Mill Ave.

Registration begins at 6:30 a.m. for the run and the 5K run will start at 7 a.m. There is a $50 registration fee for the run.

The Friendship Walk registration will be from 8 to 9:30 a.m. and the walk will begin at 10 a.m. There is no fee to participate in the walk.

For more information about the 2014 Arizona Friendship Walk, visit www.bestbuddiesarizona.org/tempewalk.

• Contact writer: (480) 898-4903 or dochoa@ahwatukee.com.

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