UNH students and members of Best Buddies chapters from all across the state flooded the Memorial Union Building’s (MUB) Granite State Room (GSR) for the annual Snowball Dance on Saturday, Jan. 28.
UNH Chapter President Samantha Colaw said that 100 UNH students sent an RSVP for the event, along with the expected 10 Best Buddies chapters from middle schools and high schools from various towns.
According to an ad for the event, Best Buddies creates one-on-one matches, facilitates friendships and creates an inclusive environment between UNH students and individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) around the community. The program puts UNH students and community members with IDD in “buddy pairs” in order to create an individualized and inclusive environment. Colaw said that there were 26 buddy pairs at the event with an expected crowd of 200 people.
Though the event was organized with a budget of $300 for the DJ, the organization decided rather to put the money towards an arrangement of food and copious decorations.
The snacks and refreshments proved to be wildly popular as the food tables had a line for the first hour of the event.
Snacking items such as cheese, crackers, fresh fruit, ice cream sundaes, cookies and more were found at the tables spread across the room, and winter-themed decorations gave a cheery vibe to the event. Colaw said that her mother created a vast majority of the homemade decorations.
McDonald’s Brand Ambassador Larry Johnston attended the event to personally give a check from previous fundraisers at UNH, Merrimack Valley and Winnacunnet. As an ambassador, Johnston’s job is to speak on behalf of those with IDD and to advocate involvement in the program.
“We hope to have a long and enjoyable relationship,” Johnston said.
According to Johnston, McDonald’s plans to have two or more fundraisers this year to support the chapter in holding more events; the next fundraiser in the works will be in Exeter.
First-year Exeter High School Best Buddies member Nikki was found eating the fresh snacks and jamming to songs such as “Forever” by Chris Brown and “Party In the USA” by Miley Cyrus while celebrating her first event.
“I like seeing how other people dance,” Best Buddy Dylan said. “I’m excited to see people from last year.”
Best Buddies State Director Sarra Dennehy stated that she was proud of the UNH students who took advantage of the minimal money they were given for the event and did so well.
“This event is for those that might not ever get to go to a dance with this many people,” Dennehy said.
Former UNH Chapter President Sarah Brais guesses that there has been a dance in the winter months for the past six to seven years with the intention of participants dressing up and having fun.
“There is no hour of awkwardness [at this dance],” Brais said. “People who usually never get noticed are on the front stage right now.”