February 26th, 2022 was a magical and amazing night for Buddy Up for Life and our supporters, volunteers and Athletes. Over 350+ plus people joined the meaningful evening marking the 7th Annual Buddy Up for Life Gala, “A  Ripple Effect”. It was truly fantastic seeing the amount of love and support shown with attendance from Athletes, Buddies, Coaches, coordinators, partners, friends and family! Buddy Up for Life now has 37 programs nationwide with almost half of the country represented in one large celebration for change! This event was truly extraordinary including a silent auction, many words of inspiration, and fundraising for new chapters, fitness programs, and support for our Athletes.

Beginning with one coach and one Athlete, Buddy Up for Life has created a huge movement for change, a ripple effect that creates powerful impacts from one community to the next. February 26th created a magnificent environment for all those who attended, with moving speakers that changed the game for the organization. The MC’s David McCreary and Dan Swartwout (co-hosts of the Ohio Lottery game show Cash Explosion) created an enthusiastic and exciting atmosphere for all in attendance and helped to raise a great deal of funds for the organization. There was also an awesome lineup including Columbus Coach and Fitness Director Kyle Collette! Kyle gave a heartwarming speech about his time and commitment to Buddy Up for Life and an example of how the ripple effect has truly affected his life and the life of all the athletes he has worked with over the years. Then founding Coach Doug DiRosario was introduced by founding Athlete Will to begin a spectacular speech about the change that can come from a small group working together for a greater cause.  We also had the privilege of recognizing Eileen Pewitt and Kimberly Skeie, our Cooking for Life Chef and Buddy Up Zumba Instructor! These two women have dedicated time and energy in working with and developing our Athletes’ abilities in the kitchen and on the dance floor. Since our last gala in 2020, these two women have been a great help in expanding programming opportunities for our Athletes. Chef Eileen has equipped our Athletes with the skills to independently and safely cook nearly all types of recipes in the kitchen.  Kimberly has taught our Athletes a new form of exercise in Zumba and our Athletes count on Monday evenings as their Zumba night with Kimberly!

Of course our Gala could not be possible without our amazing Athletes, and we got to hear an impactful speech from long time Athlete Emma. Emma spoke on how much she has benefited from the years spent with Buddy Up for Life. It was truly a magical moment to hear all this from an Athlete that has been with the organization since the beginning. In addition to these speakers, Executive Director and Founder, Beth Gibson gave a speech highlighting the next steps Buddy Up for Life will take to support and help our athletes flourish. Beth stated, “When I stood here two years ago, I asked you all to reshape our expectations of our athletes. I said that expectations are a self-fulfilling prophecy and that when we begin expecting, encouraging, and most of all believing that more is possible from our Athletes, real change happens”. With the support and strength of all of the Buddies, Coaches, coordinators, sponsors and families, change has happened and Buddy Up for Life continues to impact more lives and has gotten stronger every year. Beth shared that Buddy Up for Life started with “Playing tennis fourteen years ago with just one Athlete, one Buddy, and one Coach. Today, we have 25 Buddy Up Tennis chapters in twelve states across the nation. We serve over 650 Athletes, 750 Buddies and 100 + Coaches”. This is the meaning of the “Ripple Effect” and everything this event was celebrating. Beth spoke to the exciting future of Buddy Up for Life as well and said, “Our first step is to build upon our Independence Pillar and add a new program – Communities for Life – a program focusing on readiness for independent living”. Buddy Up for Life wants to take the next step in creating a safe, productive and engaging future for our athletes with communities for them to share and live in together while working on the life skills they have been taught thus far. 

The Conspiracy Band, along with our Athletes and Miss Kimberly, performed a new version of Sweet Caroline with the whole crowd singing along, a true ripple effect. With Beth’s closing remarks on the future of Buddy Up for Life – everyone was left with hope and determination for the future! This unforgettable evening could not be possible without our amazing sponsors, thank you so much for all of your support!

A huge thank you to everyone that attended the 2022 Buddy Up for Life “A Ripple Effect” Gala!

Click HERE to check out the event photos. 

Click HERE to check out the event photo booth photos. 

Article written by Buddy Up for Life Intern, Eirann McClatchy.