Best Buddies Southwest Florida Announces Annual Champion of the Year Event

Best Buddies Southwest Florida Announces Annual Champion of the Year Event

Best Buddies in Southwest Florida is proud to announce its annual Champion of the Year virtual gala taking place on Friday, October 30, 2020, which will air on Facebook Live from 7 pm to 8 pm

Best Buddies Southwest Florida Announces Annual Champion of the Year Event

Champion of the Year is an annual fundraising competition organized by Best Buddies staff and a volunteer Event Planning Committee, featuring a select group of individuals, professionals and prominent community leaders. These philanthropic trailblazers compete to raise the most funds for Best Buddies and earn the ultimate title of Grand Champion of the Year. By reaching out to the community to raise funds and spread awareness, candidates champion for Best Buddies, the mission, and people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD).

Many people with IDD have been profoundly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Cut off from school or community relationships, they can be particularly vulnerable to the emotional and logistical difficulties of social isolation. Best Buddies is rapidly adapting to ensure that supportive friendships, jobs and opportunities for inclusion remain available. Champion of the Year candidates are raising critical funds and awareness to ensure inclusions isn’t canceled, it’s just virtual.

The idea of being a part of helping people with intellectual and developmental disabilities feel included is at the core of Best Buddies and that is why supporting this organization means so much to me,” says 2019 inaugural Grand Champion Ken Coker.

Best Buddies Southwest Florida Announces Annual Champion of the Year Event
2019 Grand Champion Ken Coker

“Making the world a better place just by giving someone who may be different a chance to flourish is paramount to becoming who we are. My dream is the Best Buddies vision becomes a reality: by normalizing inclusion so much that there is no need for Best Buddies. Until that time, the organization has my undying support, especially considering I’m motivated by a 4-year-old granddaughter who is deaf. I want her to be included in all life has to offer and will champion the cause so that she never experiences the hurt of exclusion, just because she’s different,” Coker added.

Each Champion candidate is matched with a Mission Partner. The 2020 Southwest Florida participating Champions are Susan Christiano, Engel & Völkers Fort Myers Downtown, partnered with Tori Georgelos; Stormy Wilder, Cross Country Mortgage, partnered with Julie Lyle; Carrie Anne Texter, Conditioned Air, partnered with Lauren Nossen; Nicole Coratti, state board for Residential Options of Florida (ROOF), partnered with Jennifer Denike; Mark Drew, Ida S. Baker High School, partnered with Aden Sanchez; John Schroeder, Big Storm Brewing, partnered with Mason McFelia; James Hunter, James Hunter LLC/MVP Realty, partnered with Billy Hawkins; and Alina Gonzalez-Dockery, Life Law Planning, partnered with Alexis Poore.    

Event sponsors currently include City Furniture, Germain Lexus of Naples, Modern Woodmen Fraternal Financial, and Laura Georgelos Luxury Homes.

Best Buddies Southwest Florida Announces Annual Champion of the Year Event

Event sponsorship opportunities are still available, as well as opportunities to donate to the event’s silent and live auctions.  To learn more about sponsorship opportunities, please contact Melanie Musick, Area Director, at 239.275.2510 x2787 or email  This annual event is open to the public and an RSVP would be appreciated. To RSVP, support a specific Champion or purchase gala-in-a-box for an at-home celebration, visit

Best Buddies International is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to establishing a global volunteer movement that creates opportunities for one-to-one friendships, integrated employment, leadership development, and inclusive living for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

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