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Best Buddies Canada

Best Buddies Story Spotlight: Kaitlin and Gloria

Gloria Ferreira and Kaitlin Coghlin first met when they were paired together through their high school’s Cooperative Education program. Now, nearly a decade later, the girls’ initial connection has long since developed into a true friendship.

Although getting to know a new friend can sometimes be slow-going, Gloria explains that talking to Kaitlin was effortless. “Kaitlin is pretty bubbly. She’s very friendly, very easygoing,” she says. “After that first day, it was always easy to interact with her and carry conversations with her.” It didn’t take the two girls long to form a bond.

Kaitlin, a young adult living with an intellectual and developmental disability, also felt that being paired with Gloria was a perfect match. She explains that she admires Gloria’s sense of humour. “I thought, ‘Oh this is a good girl for me!’ Yes, I felt she was a good fit right from the beginning,” she says with a smile.

During the Co-op, Gloria and Kaitlin grew very close. During their spare time, they ate lunches and played hockey together. They walked each other to class and talked about their day. Eventually, the two were introduced to their school’s Best Buddies program and felt inspired to participate. “I wanted to grow connections with kids and adults with disabilities,” Gloria explains. “I struggled in school myself, so I wanted these kids to understand that they aren’t alone in what they go through every day.”

Gloria and Kaitlin in high school

They quickly noticed the positive impact that Best Buddies had on the school community. Mainstream students began to foster inclusion by eating lunch and making conversation with special education students. “The relationships the kids developed were amazing,” Gloria says. “They had more confidence in themselves knowing the mainstream kids wanted to be involved in their personal lives and hang out with them outside of school programming. It developed a more inclusive school community for students.”

Gloria and Kaitlin began doing more things together outside of school like grabbing dinner, seeing a movie, or just walking around the mall together. Kaitlin believes that her friendship with Gloria and her involvement in Best Buddies has helped her to feel more confident talking to others and using her voice. She’s very independent and feels comfortable doing things by herself. Gloria, too, thinks that Best Buddies has helped develop her own personal growth. “Before the program, I did look at individuals with disabilities in a positive way but I didn’t fully recognize how much they, too, want to feel important and recognized like everybody else,” she explains. “Everybody should include kids with disabilities. Recognize them, reach out to them, say hi. They’re important. They’re like us.”

Even though the girls have both graduated from high school and moved to different cities, they make sure to stay in touch through phone calls, facetime, and the occasional in-person get together. Kaitlin adds that they recently went together to see Disney on Ice and had a lot of fun.

Gloria and Kaitlin at Disney on Ice

Gloria and Kaitlin are among many other buddy pairs who have been impacted by the Best Buddies friendship program. Their steadfast friendship is a testament to the power of genuine connection and a reminder of how important it is to spread kindness and inclusion.