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Best Buddies fosters friendship

Published on October 17, 2023

Best Buddies fosters friendship

From left to right: Margo Meley, Angelo Santiago, and Taylor Kinzler
From left to right: Margo Meley, Angelo Santiago, and Taylor Kinzler

Members of Eastern’s Best Buddies chapter came together on Oct. 8 to raise awareness for the program, an international nonprofit organization that supports individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities by forming one-on-one friendships and providing services. Students filled the Student Center Theatre to listen to anecdotes from Taylor Kinzler and other Best Buddies members and to share their experiences.  

Kinzler, the host of NBC Connecticut’s “CT Live!” show, is a Best Buddies CT celebrity ambassador who has supported the program since she was a young girl in school. Now on TV, she helps spread Best Buddies’ message and share the experiences of those she’s met.  

“I take (Best Buddies) very seriously. It’s important to create an environment where people from all walks of life are welcome,” Kinzler said. “I listen and I help in the way I know best, by telling stories.” 

Margo Meley, Best Buddies Young Leaders Council (YLC) co-chair and Eastern chapter member, joined Best Buddies in 2015. She said, “When I came up the stairs (of the Student Center) for my first chapter meeting, I never looked back.”  


Through her work with the program and on the YLC, Meley has pushed for initiatives surrounding employment, mental health and accessibility. “We live in a society where accessibility should be important to everyone,” said Meley. “All those activities you do with your college friends are the same things those with (disabilities) are looking to do.” 

Margo Meley
Margo Meley

Best Buddies has given many opportunities for the members of Eastern’s chapter to get together and enjoy each other’s company. “We go bowling, apple picking, have pizza parties and do events that collaborate with other clubs at Eastern," said Olivia Melillo, Best Buddies vice president. “Eastern's chapter is very focused on one-on-one friendships.” 

Eastern’s chapter will be participating in the Best Buddies Friendship Walk this fall. The walk is a worldwide fundraiser. In Connecticut, all state chapters will come together at the Yard Goats Stadium in Hartford and walk, dance, listen to music and celebrate their differences. Meley has made the music playlist for two years in a row and encourages Eastern students to join in the fun. 

Angelo Santiago, Best Buddies YLC and Eastern chapter member, was introduced to Best Buddies through an invitation to a dance in 2013.  

“My heart felt at home. I knew right there that I wanted to be a part of it in every way,” he said. In the ten years that followed, Santiago has worked on the YLC to bridge the gap between staff and participants, with the goal of making Best Buddies better for all members. 

“We want people to listen to our stories and feel a profound impact not just in their mind but in their heart,” Santiago said. 

Melillo said, “People like Taylor Kinzler change the lives of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities because she listens and looks past the disability. Everyone deserves a friend but not everyone has one. Best Buddies creates that opportunity for every individual with and without intellectual and developmental disabilities.” 

Kinzler left the crowd with this final statement: “Show up for the people and the causes you believe in.” 

Written by Marcus Grant