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Carmel High School teacher, student nominated for Best Buddies Champion of the Year

CARMEL, Ind. (WISH) — A Carmel teacher and student are being recognized for their work with the Best Buddies program. 

The Best Buddies program creates opportunities for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. 

The teacher and student are both up for Best Buddies Champion of the Year. 

For the next several weeks, they’ll be raising money and awareness for a program that helps build friendships for people living with and without disabilities. 

“The buddies I’ve worked with love me for who I am,” said Christine Ellis. 

Ellis started with the Best Buddies program when she was a Freshman at Butler. 

“I told them about my experience with people with disabilities in the past. I have a cousin who is severely autistic and she’s a year younger than me so I’ve kind of grown up next to her my whole life and I’ve realized the biggest challenge that she always had was making friends and because of that I wanted to make that change and I wanted to join a friendship and inclusion for people with disabilities,: said Ellis. 

She was partnered with her buddy, Kylene. 

“You get to make new friends, talk to your buddies,” said Kylene. 

Ellis is now a teacher at Carmel High School, helping run a Best Buddies chapter of around 300 students. 

One of those students is Gabi Stigter

“It really helps people with IDD (Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities) but it has especially helped me, like I have learned to be more patient and to be more loving and just to see everyone as a person not if they have a disability or not,” said Stigter. 

Ellis and Stigter are two of eleven people up for Best Buddies Champion of the Year. 

“I’ve really learned to really understand what a genuine friendship is,” said Ellis. 

On a mission to bring people together, one friendship at a time.

“It spreads inclusion and it spreads the word that people are people.”

To learn more about the work Gabi and Christine are doing and to donate to their cause, click here. 

The Best Buddies Champion of the Year will be named in November and is based on the money each person raises.