SUNRISE, FLA. (WSVN) - South Floridians came together for some fun and philanthropy in Sunrise, as Best Buddies held their annual fundraiser with a pandemic-friendly twist.

The organization’s Friendship Walk turned into a tailgate at the BB&T on Saturday due to COVID-19 safety protocols, but the energy and excitement were even higher this year.

“Most importantly, we’re raising huge money. We’ve got a lot of volunteers, a lot of young people” said Best Buddies founder Anthony K. Shriver, “a lot of high school kids, elementary school kids, corporate volunteers, all coming out to support Best Buddies.”

WSVN is proud to support Best Buddies through the Ansin Foundation. The organization aims to provide inclusive opportunities for those in the community with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

“We’ve been at it for over 30 years, in South Florida for 25. The Ansin family has been amazing to us, super generous,”said Shriver. “Ed Ansin was a great friend, big, generous supporter. Andy and his family continue on.”

Despite the tweaks organizers had to make to the Friendship Walk, the mission and goal of Best Buddies in South Florida have not changed.

“We give them an opportunity to feel like what their dream might be, it’s a possibility,” said Shriver.

Among those whose lives have been forever changed because of Best Buddies is Jacob Anderson.

“They taught me how to be not afraid of speaking, be a little independent, finding jobs, and just to be yourself, you know? You have to get out there,” he said.

Anderson said he has been working at the offices of Independent Purchasing Cooperative for eight years.

“My job is my family,” he said as he embraced Jan Risi, IPC’s CEO.

“What I didn’t expect was how invigorating it would be for our corporate culture,” said Risi. “What I didn’t realize is that it’s not us giving to Jacob; Jacob gives to us. It’s truly mutually beneficial.”

“I think to reach out to people and support people who need an extra hand is critical to any community, any culture,” said Shriver. “I think, when you do that, you feel better about yourself, feel better about who you are, and we make our communities a better place to live in.”

In a tweet posted Sunday morning, Best Buddies organizers said the event raised nearly $270,000.

For more information about Best Buddies in Florida, click here.

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