MIAMI (WSVN) - Hundreds in South Florida put their best foot forward and walked for a great cause, along with members of 7News’ family, all to support a beloved organization that champions and celebrates friendship and inclusion.

The Ed Ansin Best Buddies Friendship Walk, held Saturday morning at loanDepot Park in Miami, welcomed people of all ages.

Among the participants in the special annual event was 7News anchor Craig Stevens, who stepped up to the mic as the event’s emcee.

“Good morning, good morning, good morning. How are we?” he asked as the crowd responded with loud and enthusiastic cheers.

The fun-filled event featured walkers from across the country in support of the organization, which helps support people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

“I feel great, I’m excited. I love this organization, and we try so raise some money to help everybody, you know what I’m saying?” said Best Buddies Ambassador Duane Chin Loy.

Best Buddies aims to make the world more welcoming to everyone. The organization’s executive vice president, Mark Lewis, said the event’s importance is for a multitude of reasons, and he is grateful.

“It brings the community together. I actually grew up in this area — Allapattah, Little Havana. You’re gonna find out that some of our supporters here today, that have supported our organization the most, actually also grew up in this area,” he said, “and I think anything that brings together our population, socializes them, is enormously important.”

The Friendship Walk also supports the Best Buddies programs in schools, workplaces and communities.

7News is a proud sponsor. WSVN co-president and general manager Paul Magnes said the late Ed Ansin would love what this event is doing with the community.

“In his memory to do this walk. He loved walking, he loved being out in the community and making a difference,” said Magnes. “That’s what [Best Buddies International’s founder, chairman and CEO] Anthony Shriver and the Best Buddies community does for so many people in our community.”

Magnes said he’s proud to have this partnership.

“We’ve been part of Best Buddies, sponsoring them for many years, and we’re going to continue that partnership for many years to come,” he said. “We can’t think of a better way to get out in the community and make a difference for people and follow in Mr. Anthony’s footsteps.”

Participants said they appreciate the event and are thankful for what it does to our community.

Chin Loy said he got a job at a law firm thanks to the Best Buddies Foundation.

“Best Buddies is wonderful, man. I love it because it helps people like me be more included in society, with jobs, friendships,” he said, “and even now, they have a new thing which is Independent Living, and stuff like that, so Best Buddies is awesome, man.”

In 2023, the Friendship Walk raised more than $300,000. The Best Buddies Foundation is hoping to surpass that goal.

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