Best Buddies ‘Champions of Inclusion Celebration’ goes virtual

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PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Like most big events in 2020, Best Buddies Oregon’s annual fundraising gala is going virtual this year.

“We have had to pivot, obviously, to doing an all-virtual event,” said Best Buddies Oregon’s director of mission advancement, Kelly Toepperwein.

This year’s Champions of Inclusion Celebration may look different than in the past but its mission remains the same.

“We really want to show the community the importance of inclusion and honor people who’ve made it a personal commitment to enrich the lives of people with disabilities,” said Toepperwein.

It’s the third year Best Buddies Oregon will host the gala, showcasing the non-profit’s dedication to promote 1-to-1 friendships, jobs, leadership development, and inclusion for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

“Inclusion means to me friendship, not just people with IDD but without, joining together as one,” said Logan Stromberg. Stromberg will host this years online gala.

“This my first event that I’m MC’ing and I’m so excited. It’s been a little challenging, but I’ve learned to go with it.. because I think it’ll be really good,” Stromberg said.

Virtually, the event will unite and recognize its local community Champions that have helped raise funds and awareness for Best Buddies.

“We’re highlighting a University of Oregon chapter president, a speech pathologist, as well as Cari and her daughter Sophie for starting a chapter,” Toepperwein said.

The mother-daughter duo started a Best Buddies chapter at Liberty High School.

“Just to see the friendships that are made in our club is amazing… everybody should feel like they belong and too often students with IDD feel like they don’t belong,” said Cari Ventura. “Being virtual this year has definitely been a challenge but we’re going to keep promoting the mission of inclusion,”

The virtual Champions of Inclusion Celebration will broadcast live at 7 pm on Thursday, November 19.  An online auction will also be held. All proceeds from the event will support Best Buddies mission of inclusion, friendship and leadership development in Oregon.

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