Best Buddies spotlighted at high school football game

International program with local chapter
Posted at 2:31 PM, Oct 20, 2017

It's cheers, smiles and anticipation at the cheerleading practice at East Lake High School in Tarpon Springs. 

"Tonight is going to be a very good night," varsity cheerleader Tori Valby said. 

The game between the East Lake Eagles and the St. Pete Devils will be like no other in East Lake's history. 

"This is the first time at East Lake that we've done something like this," senior Natalie Rincon said. 

The varsity squad invited their new best buddies to root alongside them during the game. 

Best Buddies is an international organization with a local chapter at East Lake. There are more than 100 special needs students that attend East Lake in the Best Buddies program. Part of their core mission is making sure no one ever feels left out.  

"We just want everyone to understand how important it is to include everyone and extend the hand of friendship to everyone, so everyone can feel the same amount of respect, inclusion and empowerment on the same level," Rincon, who is also the president of the East Lake Best Buddies chapter, said. 

Valby said beyond the momentary cheers and smiles, it's the news bonds that she's sure won't break after the game.

"I think it's extremely important making friendships that can last through college and into your career life. The best ones start in high school," she said. "I think no matter who wins the game, we are all going to win tonight with the buddies and they are going to have a great time doing it with us."