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Best Buddies Canada

Best Buddies Story Spotlight: James O’Donohue and Cy Fletcher

Bishop Reding James and Cy (Buddy Pair)

James O’Donohue and Cy Fletcher are students at Bishop Reding Catholic Secondary School in Milton. Paired together through the Best Buddies program, James and Cy have developed a lasting friendship.

Cy was first introduced to Best Buddies by a friend who was involved in running the chapter. After attending his first Best Buddies meeting at lunch, Cy quickly developed a routine of spending every Friday lunch with one of the school’s Life Skills students, James. “I met James that first day and we started to click from there,” he explains. “We started talking and hanging out and quickly became friends.”

James is a tenth-grade student living with an intellectual and developmental disability. Although he and Cy knew each other in passing from football practice, they hadn’t had the opportunity to foster a connection until spending time together in Best Buddies. Week after week, the pair spent their lunches together playing card games, participating in sports, or going to the weight room. Their friendship quickly strengthened, and they began spending time together outside of Best Buddies. Cy even introduced James to his group of friends. “We all talk to one another,” Cy says. “Everyone knows James now. He’s friends with so many different people. He never treats anyone bad; he’s nice to everyone.”

“The whole school knows me!” James adds. “I’m not afraid to hang out with other people now. The students are always nice and playful.”

Mrs. Inglis, James, and Cy

Not only has Best Buddies helped James develop confidence and social skills, but it’s also fostered a spirit of inclusion within the school community. James and Cy regularly fundraise and spread awareness for Best Buddies by selling freezies and popcorn at lunches. As a chapter, they have attended a Life Skills dance and prom, bocce ball tournaments, and theatre productions. They’ve noticed that mainstream students and Life Skills students feel more integrated. The Life Skills classroom has had more and more mainstream students coming in to mingle, which wasn’t the case prior to Best Buddies. “It’s not like the Life Skills students are on their own and the other students are on their own,” Cy explains. “We’re all together in one big community. Programs like Best Buddies are important to make sure everyone in the community is included.”

Bishop Reding’s Best Buddies at the Life Skills dance

Participating in Best Buddies has benefited both Cy and James. As Cy prepares to graduate this year and move on to university, he feels better equipped to make new friends, communicate, and relate to people even when they might be a bit different than him. He also knows that his friendship with James will continue beyond high school. “We’re always there for each other,” he says. “We’ll definitely maintain our friendship. Whenever I come back, I’ll say hi to James and everyone else in the Best Buddies program.”

For James, his friendship with Cy and involvement in Best Buddies has helped him to regulate his anxiety and stay more productive in class. The pair enjoy going to the weight room together during lunch, which helps James let out any extra energy and feel more relaxed during school hours. By having support on a peer level, James is better able to navigate the social dynamics of high school. Bishop Reding’s Staff Advisor, Litsa Inglis, notes that James’ classroom behaviour has significantly improved because of his friendship with Cy. “Cy is like his big brother,” she explains. “When James goes out for his walks, other students may not know he is a Life Skills student. If Cy notices things happening that may be inappropriate and it’s hard for James to communicate that, he steps in and protects him in that way.”

Cy cheering on James in the weight room

The Best Buddies program at Bishop Reding wouldn’t be possible without the dedication of Mrs. Inglis and support from Mr. Di Ianni, the administrative team, and the Special Education Department. They provide monthly pizza parties for Best Buddies participants and have worked all year to hold group events and foster paired friendships. Their efforts have created a strong chapter at the school. In James’ words, “The teachers are who make it all happen.”

James and Cy are excited to see how Best Buddies at Bishop Reding grows and develops. They hope that anyone who may be interested in joining takes a chance on the program. “Do it. We need more nice people in this world,” James says. When asked if he has words of advice for someone considering joining the program, Cy says, “You could have a lifelong friend and never know if you never did it. My advice is to get out there, explore, have fun, and meet new people.”

Some of Bishop Reding’s Best Buddies activities

James and Cy are just one of the many buddy pairs impacted by the Best Buddies friendship program.

Through Best Buddies, James and Cy have not only enriched each other’s lives but have also helped to foster a more inclusive and compassionate school community. Their story serves as a powerful reminder of the transformative impact of friendship and inclusion.