On a recent Tuesday after school, more than two dozen Colonial Middle School students were busy working together in small groups to build gingerbread houses as part of a friendly competition during the Best Buddies winter party.
"I like working together as a team," said Cecilia Schmidt, a member of the club.
The Best Buddies club, now in its second year at Colonial Middle School, creates opportunities for one-to-one friendships and leadership development for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) and is open to students with and without IDD.
"It's really fun. I'm glad I'm getting to do stuff like this," said Taeshaun Johnson, a CMS seventh grader who's in his second year with the club.
The CMS Best Best Buddies club meets regularly and offers a variety of projects and activities to the members. Earlier in December, the group stayed after school to help different teachers clean their rooms as a service project.
"I like the fact that everyone's a friend," said CMS sixth grader Molly Feinberg. "I've met a lot of new people."
In addition to events at CMS, Best Buddies members will also take part in the Best Buddies Walk to raise funds for the national organization and a regional middle school dance at a school in West Chester.
"I think the students are really enjoying each other and getting out," said CMS teacher and Best Buddies sponsor Ansley Dawidzuik. "They'll come to school talking about Best Buddies, and it's what they'll take home to their parents. It's a good bridge."
The Colonial Middle School Best Buddies Club's national dues are covered by the Philadelphia Insurance Company, who offered to pay the dues of any new middle school chapter last year for as long as the club remains active.