Centre College’s Best Buddies organization will host its “When the Stars Align” event at its 2015 fall kickoff on Sept. 17. National and local stars will indeed align: Hollywood actress Vivica Fox, singer Marlana VanHoose and disabilities advocate Daniel Noltemeyer will attend to support Centre’s Best Buddies program alongside Best Buddies International representatives and Best Buddies members from other Kentucky schools. The fun-filled night will include a presentation in Newlin Hall at 6:30 p.m., with a dance to follow from 8-10 p.m. on Old Centre’s lawn.
Best Buddies was founded by Anthony Kennedy Shriver in 1989 with the purpose of establishing one-to-one friendships with and giving opportunities in leadership development to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Centre’s chapter was established in 2009 and was named Kentucky’s Outstanding College Chapter for 2010-11.
The inspiration for the event was a happy accident. Centre Best Buddies President Samantha Cook ’17 was watching the Celebrity Apprentice season seven when she saw actress Vivica Fox playing on behalf of Best Buddies. Fox, who won $50,000 during the show and donated the money to Best Buddies International, has appeared in films such as Independence Day, Kill Bill and Ella Enchanted, and has been an advocate for people with co-occurring intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) for more than 15 years as a celebrity ambassador for Best Buddies International.
Cook reached out to Fox’s agent about visiting the College, hoping an appearance would help bring more notoriety to the club and get people involved.
“I honestly never thought I would hear back,” Cook explained, “but that day—I’ll never forget, it was on a snow day—the phone rang and it was Vivica’s agent. She said she would love to come and was all-in at the first conversation.”
Fox, who is currently filming Independence Day: Resurgence, is taking a day off to fly to Kentucky for the event.
“It’s awesome that she’s willing to take time out of her career to work with a small school in Kentucky and a charity program,” Cook said. “I really feel that she’s personally invested in the organization.”
Marlana VanHoose, a 19-year-old Kentucky native and Best Buddies member who has cerebral palsy and is blind, will also be attending. She has performed for such notable events as a NASCAR Spring Cup Series Race, an NCAA women’s basketball tournament, the 2015 NBA Playoffs, and appeared on Inside Edition and Entertainment Tonight. In 2012, she was the recipient of the Artist Music Guild New Artist of the Year and Young Artist of the Year awards and will sing at the Centre event while accompanying herself on the piano.
Daniel Noltemeyer—brother to Patrick Noltemeyer, Centre Special Assistant to the President for Institutional Research and Special Events—has Down syndrome and is the founder of Best Buddies Kentucky. In May, he was awarded The NASCAR Foundation’s Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award for his profound impact on the lives of children in his community. He has become a spokesman for the foundation and will introduce Fox at the event.
Organizing the event was a team effort, with help from Centre Best Buddies officers Justin Nguyen ’18 (vice president), Cara Barnett ’18 (membership coordinator), Megan Holderman ’16 (treasurer), Emily McGlone ’18 (activities coordinator), the group’s faculty liaison Professor of Chemistry Jennifer Muzyka and many more.
Cook is thankful that so many people are eager to participate in the event, but she said the focus will remain on the buddies and the message that disabled people can have the same opportunities as others.
“They have so many talents that can get overlooked,” Cook said. “We want to show that disability comes in more than one form, that not all disabilities are the same.
“Inclusion is so important—everyone is equal, everyone can be friends—and no one should be alone,” Cook continued. “That is the ultimate message of what Best Buddies is about.”
To further that goal, she hopes that the event will encourage local groups to volunteer for one-on-one Best Buddy pairs as the Special Persons Advocacy Network, Inc. (SPAN) in Danville has done. Additionally, already more than 70 Centre students have shown interest in the program this year.
“The buddies will benefit the most from the event because they’ll feel special—the most important thing is for them to feel like the stars of the show!” Cook concluded.
Look for the Best Buddies table in Cowan the week of Sept. 14 for information and t-shirts.
Pictured: Cara Barnett ’18 and Samantha Cook ’17 display the t-shirts for the Sept. 17 Best Buddies fall kickoff event.
by Elise L. Murrell
September 14, 2015