What Else We've Been Up To

BBCT Holds its First Alumni Reception
Community Advocate of the Year - Brendan LeMieux

Best Buddies Connecticut

Three generations of BBCT Buddy Ambassadors at the first annual Alumni Reception, Dennis Fitzpatrick, 2011, Brendan Lemieux, 2012, and Albert Lognin, 2010.
BBCT continued its ongoing efforts to reconnect with alumni on Friday, April 27th with an alumni reception at the Whitney Center in Hamden. The reception was organized by a group from the Greater New Haven Chamber of Commerce Leadership Class of 2012.

The reception was the culminating event in the leadership group’s alumni outreach project. Over the past several months, they’d been working with BBCT staff to assemble a BBCT alumni board and plan the reception.

The reception began with a cocktail hour where former and current Best Buddies participants had the chance to mingle. John Monico, BBCT Advisory Board Chair, gave the opening remarks, and Emilie Latainer, Sacred Heart University BBCT Alumni, spoke on behalf of the newly-formed alumni board. 

Four were presented throughout the night. Alison Whyte was named Volunteer of the Year for her hours of dedication and assistance to the Buddy Ambassador program in CT.

Alison also has a buddy in the Citizens program. The award for Community Advocate of the Year went to Brendan LeMieux, a member of the Kandoo Band. The Kandoo Band is a group of very talented musicians who all have disabilities and do shows around the state and the country to spread disability awareness. 

Brendan will also be trained as a Buddy Ambassador at Leadership Conference in July. Irina Anta, a former Best Buddies chapter president from San Francisco and former Yale college buddy director, was named Alumni of the Year. Irina will be studying immigration law so that she can “focus on deportation cases for low-income immigrants in detention and young college students who would be eligible for the DREAM Act.”

The top honor, the Best Buddies Connecticut Leadership Award, was awarded to Albert Lognin, a buddy at Trinity College. Albert was one of the first buddies in the state in 1990. Since then, he has been an integral part of the disability awareness movement. He’s been a strong advocate to end the r-word and has taken on leadership roles in his college chapter and at HARC, and has been trained as a Buddy Ambassador. 

Mike Ricci, a BBCT board member gave a fantastic closing speech, tying Best Buddies in with all of the other movements and organizations started by the Kennedy family, including the Peace Corps. Everyone left knowing that they were part of a huge movement to empower people, and it was the perfect start to a successful Friendship Weekend.

(c) 2012 Best Buddies Connecticut

The Association for Community Living
 “Paul D’Amato Volunteer Service Award”
Citation for John Libera
Annual Award Dinner and Awards Ceremony
The Log Cabin, Holyoke, Mass., June 20, 2012

“The Inclusive Community Center would like to nominate John Libera for the Volunteer Service award to be presented at this year’s annual dinner. John’s name jumped to mind immediately as a result of his substantial contribution to our organization over the past two years. Aside from being punctual, reliable and consistent, John has provided a wide variety of unique benefits to the many classes lucky enough to count him as an assistant. His musical expertise was an invaluable resource in our Exploring Music class, where he helped teach students listening skills and musical terminology while being an outstanding model of what dedicated students may one day achieve. In Transitions John has again been an ideal model of self-advocacy and independence, offering insights into speech writing and presentation, and assisting in a great many tasks such as helping students brainstorm and write responses to class material. These are only a few examples that indicate John’s tremendous contribution to the Inclusive Community Center over the last four sessions. John’s consistently positive attitude, his willingness to share his many skills, and his always supportive and calming presence are true resources we hope to continue to enjoy here at the Center. Even in light of all his contributions, perhaps nothing could indicate this candidates worthiness more than the question we are constantly hearing from our students: “Where’s John Libera?”.”


 Chicopee, Mass.  At an award ceremony celebrating Developmental Disabilities Month in March, John Libera was honored by the Department of Developmental Services, Holyoke/Chicopee Area, for his volunteer work helping younger children with disabilities.

 Since Spring 2011, John has volunteered at Whole Children, a program for children with special needs in Hadley, where participants look up to him as a role model.  During the summer he volunteered several days a week assisting in teaching social skills, self-advocacy through speech writing, sports and recreation, cooking, and community skills.  He continues to assist in teaching music to teens once a week using his many musical talents.

 John’s musical performances were also cited.  As a graduate of the Berkshire Hills Music Academy in South Hadley and a member of the school’s Extended Learning Community, he performs widely with the Academy’s Troupe and with The Kandoo Band made up of alumni.  He and his fellow musicians have appeared at numerous venues in several states over the past few years in support of people with disabilities.

 Distinguished guests at the evening ceremony, hosted by Holyoke/Chicopee DDS Director Robin Harmatz, were local government officials, including State Representative John W. Scibak and Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse.  Rep. Scibak presented John with impressive citations from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Senate and House of Representatives “for his dedication and various acts of volunteerism to improve the quality of life in [his] community.”

Photo: State Rep. John Scibak, John J. Libera, III, DDS Area Dir. Robin Harmatz