Halloween may be today, but one of Cheshire’s biggest and most popular local groups was getting into the spooky spirit of the season early.
On Oct. 20, the Cheshire High School Best Buddies club, which boasts more than 200 members, gathered for their fourth annual Halloween Party at the home of the Gentile family, on Farm Meadow Lane. The “party” attracted more than 80 people, who came for the tricks, treats, and a fun time with family and friends.
“Justin (Gentile) loves Halloween, and this was all he could talk about,” explained Christine Anthony, president of the Best Buddies group. “Every (conversation) was about who was going to be where and who was going to be doing what.”
The theme for this year’s event was a Haunted Garage, with some members dressing up in their spookiest outfits to “scare” whoever dared come through the space during the day. Also, the students dressed mostly as pirates, and volunteers even helped to build a pirate ship out of cardboard for the occasion.
“We were there two weeks in a row preparing,” explained Anthony. “It was really a group effort. One day, we had the entire football team come to help carry bins (of decorations).”
Best Buddies pairs students with classmates and peers who have intellectual or physical disabilities. The “buddies” participate in activities together throughout the year, and most end up forming deep bonds of friendship.
That’s been the case with Christine Anthony and her buddy Justin. The two have formed a close relationship, which is one of the reasons why the club joined in on the Halloween fun four years ago.
According to Peg Anthony, Christine’s mother and one of the founders of the Cheshire High School Best Buddies chapter, the Gentile family has been throwing a Halloween party for years. The CHS club simply wanted to help make it a bigger experience for everyone.
“They have so much stuff already,” laughed Peg Anthony. “They have boxes of (Halloween decorations) that we use … so we are just looking to add on to that.”
And add on they did.
This year, courtesy of Ives Farm and TD Growers, the group sponsored a hay ride. There was also a scavenger hunt for attendees, as well as numerous games for party-goers to try out.
In the end, it was a record-breaking day for attendance.
Kaylee Fell, the vice president of Best Buddies, explained how grateful everyone is, not only for the turnout, but also for the volunteers. “I think it shows what an amazing community we have,” she said.
That desire to give back extended beyond Cheshire this year, as the party welcomed some unexpected guests.
Dodd Middle School’s Best Buddies club also participated in the day, and one of their members, Sam Hayden, was recently selected to be part of the Quinnipiac University men’s soccer team through the IMPACT program, which connects children facing difficult physical challenges with local college athletic teams.
“These 15 players just showed up (with Hayden),” said Fell, with a laugh. “We didn’t know who they were. I think it made everyone stop and just realize, these (players) took time out of their day just to attend this event with Sam.”
Cheshire’s Best Buddies organization remains one of the most successful in the region, which the group proved again on Oct. 27 when more than 65 participants showed up to the Best Buddies CT Friendship Walk in North Haven. The group took home first place as the top fundraising team at the event.
“A lot of people tend to think that Best Buddies is about doing something for someone with disabilities,” said Peg Anthony, “but in reality, it does more for people without the disabilities. That’s why it’s been so great to see (the legacy) of the group continue.”