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Swinging into spring: Students raise money for Best Buddies

The Sports Science Center is hardly the usual hangout spot of choice for students on a weekend night.

Saturday, however, it was decked out in purple, black and gold as a place-to-be for the night. A group of Belmont students, working with the Belmont chapter of the Best Buddies International organization, hosted a swing dance fundraiser for a class and, more importantly, for the buddies.

“The swing dance was a classmate’s idea. The Gnarly Parkers player, Charles Kay, is a huge part of Best Buddies, so we thought it would be a cool way to tie things together,” said Kelsey Hawkins, the president of the Belmont chapter. “Plus, the buddies love to dance.”

Best Buddies is a non-profit organization that focuses on the importance of one-on-one relationships with people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, according to its website.

For just five dollars to get in the door, students could dance from 7 p.m. until 10 p.m. to the music of the Gnarly Parkers, enjoy snacks provided by local businesses such as Taqueria del Sol and knew they were contributing to a worthy cause.

“There’s two different areas where it can go,” said Michelle Eckland, a program manager for Best Buddies Tennessee. “It can either go toward their friendship block page and cover their chapter dues for the year, or it can be some for the friendship block fee and some for them to use for their events in the future.”

By the end of the night, the event raised more than $215 to go toward Belmont’s Best Buddies chapter. The money will be used to plan future activities for the members and their buddies to enjoy.

“We don’t like to make our buddies pay, so this will help cover them when we do activities,” Hawkins said.

The night began with swing-dancing lessons for those who were a little rusty. After that, it was free dance for the rest of the evening after a talk about the Best Buddies program from Eckland.

From around 8:30 p.m. onward, it was pure dancing fun. And, as at any true Belmont event, “Wobble” was played along with other well-known songs, like “Cupid Shuffle” and “Electric Boogie.”

The event was put together for an event management class taught by Cathy Hill, an instructor of management. Hill was very impressed by the way the girls have been planning since January and how they ran the event.

“Every detail you see here, they’ve done it,” Hill said. “They’ve been phenomenal.”

While the dancing was the highlight of the night, there were also a few other activities to keep everyone busy. For the buddies, there was a coloring table for them to enjoy. There was also a photo booth available for everyone to use.

Although the dance was the last on-campus Best Buddies event of the year, there will be a Friendship Walk with Best Buddies Tennessee on April 12 at Bicentennial Mall State Park.

As far as the Belmont chapter of Best Buddies, Hawkins is hopeful that, with the success of the dance, next year’s events will have an even bigger attendance.

“We would love to do it again,” Hawkins said. “Now that we have done it once, next year will hopefully be even more successful.”

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