Saturday, March 10, 2012 | 6:18 p.m.
Best Buddies' largest flash mob
LMFAO’s "Party Rock Anthem" was blasting through the speakers at Town Square on Saturday afternoon as hundreds of people fist pumped and shuffled in what is now considered to be Best Buddies’ largest flash mob.
Children and adults bounced up and down to the pounding beats, throwing their arms in the air and clapping together in a “Flash Mob for Friendship.”
The daylong event was hosted by the nonprofit group in an attempt to draw new members and the weekend crowd at the mall. Their mission: to end the social isolation of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities through a friendship program.
Best Buddies, which has chapters at UNLV and various Clark County middle schools and high schools, was brought to Nevada in July of 2008 and now has a roster of 4,000 people participating in its buddy system.
“We used to do a walk, but there are so many walks, so we wanted to do something different,” Nevada Best Buddies director Jason Smith said. “Flash mobs are all about creating a scene and what we wanted to do is reach outside of our sphere of supporters and get people who wouldn’t normally come to an event like this.”
Smith said he knows the stigma behind those with disabilities. His brother has Down syndrome and was treated differently. He took a separate bus to school, took separate classes and even had a separate lunch than other students.
“The (other) students couldn’t see the value he could bring,” Smith said. “People with disabilities really need that friendship. A lot of times, they are segregated.”
He said Saturday’s flash mob was all about friendship and dancing, things Smith believes are universal.
Buddies are matched based on age, gender, location and hobbies. Smith said the Best Buddies program is not only beneficial for special needs students but for their buddies, as well.
Coronado High School sophomore Alexa Briggs said her short time in Best Buddies has been a growing experience.
“I’ve never been sportsy or talented with anything, but I’ve always had such a big heart for the less fortunate,” she said. “Not only do I feel like I’m helping my buddy, but I feel like my buddy is helping me grow as a person. She and I do basically everything I would do with a friend.”
Briggs said that includes watching movies together, going to the park and writing notes to each other on weekends.
Four-year member of Best Buddies Kellie Connolly said the best parts of the organization are the activities buddies do together. She and her buddy go bowling and even go out on the Strip.
Already in an assistance program, Connolly said she was interested in joining the UNLV chapter as soon as she found out about it.
Connolly, along with family, said she enjoyed “Flash Mob for Friendship.”
“It was fun — the whole event, the dancing.”