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Lakely Stapler, at left, and Michelle Hyams discuss the Best Buddies in Alabama program. Best Buddies International has nominated Hyams as a Best Buddies in Alabama Champion. CONTRIBUTED

Hyams nominated as Best Buddies in Alabama Champion

MADISON – Best Buddies International has nominated Michelle Hyams as a Best Buddies in Alabama Champion.

Founded in 1989, Best Buddies International, a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization, is dedicated to establishing a global volunteer movement that promotes one-to-one friendships, integrated employment, leadership development and inclusive living for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities or IDD.

Hyams has worked nine years with Madison City Schools during her 29-year career in the field. Her emphasis has been as job coach for students with disabilities.

Five years ago, Hyams met with a group of parents who wanted a program to support students with intellectual disabilities in employment, leadership, inclusion, friendship, community involvement and inclusive living. “A parent presented Best Buddies International as a resource. After reviewing the information, we jumped in with both feet to start the first high-school chapter in Alabama (MCS – High School Chapter),” Hyams said.

The MCS team now includes Bob Jones and James Clemens high schools, Discovery and Liberty middle schools and Mill Creek, Rainbow, Midtown, Heritage, Horizon, Madison and Columbia elementary schools.

Currently, 250-plus members are in 11 clubs. Monthly events include dance parties, Best Buddies concert, leadership conferences, friendship walks, cooking activities, friendship breakfast hangouts, luau, reading clubs at Madison Public Library, James Clemens Baseball Night and runout at MCS football and soccer games,” Hyams said.

“We need more chapters in Alabama. International Best Buddies is holding a gala in Birmingham to raise money to start a State Office of Best Buddies,” Hyams said. “We currently have 20 chapters in our state, but we see the potential and the need for these programs across the state.”

“We need your support. This office would provide the (help) that some schools will need to start a chapter and get it going,” Hyams said. All donations are tax-deductible, and Best Buddies will email a receipt after receiving a donation.

Best Buddies International, a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization, has grown from one original chapter to approximately 3,000 chapters worldwide. Best Buddies programs engage participants in all 50 states and in 47 countries.

For more information, visit bestbuddieschampion.org/alabama.

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