MARYLAND HEIGHTS, MO - Hundreds of people put on their walking shoes Saturday morning to support a very worthy cause.
The annual Best Buddies Friendship Walk took place at Creve Coeur Lake Park in Maryland Heights.
Best Buddies is an international group dedicated to ending social isolation for those with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
People volunteer for the group and then become 'buddies' with those in the program.
They go to various events together and become close friends.
Today`s walk is a major fundraiser for the group.
Those involved with the program say the friendships that are developed are very meaningful.
“We`re really focusing on helping to facilitate social engagement between people that otherwise wouldn`t have that opportunity-helping to create really strong friendships between people with and without disabilities,” said Kelly Quinn, the Missouri State Director for Best Buddies International.
16-year-old Gus Krause, an Eureka High School student and a recipient of the program, told us, “We`re the same as any of you and we just want companionship. Whether it be in friends or something more than that, it`s that we need friends just like anyone else.”
Gus` buddy is 17-year-old Shane Lockwood who also attends Eureka High School.
He talked with us about why he wanted to be a buddy, explaining, “(These kids) are shut out (in high school) a lot and it`s hard to watch sometimes and that`s what the need for a change is. You want to see all the inclusion happening and that`s what is happening now at Eureka High School.”
Gus` twin brother, Tucker Krause, is both a program recipient and a buddy to another child.
He says about the program, “It`s someone to study with for finals, it`s someone to hang out with on the weekends, somebody to go see a movie with- it can help you with the stresses of life while also helping you with other things.”
Some 600 people turned out for the walk.
Among the supporters there was Senator Roy Blunt.
Organizers hoped to raise some $72,000.