Staff Report

 

Buddy Cruise is a 501(c)(3) non-profit charity that provides resources, promotes awareness and advocacy for individuals with special needs and their families. Founded in Lithia in 2008, it continues to broaden its reach influencing and impacting lives. Although the board members and ambassadors work all year to promote the Buddy Mission, the highlight is the annual life-changing conference at sea.

2014 was a record setting year as over 100 families sailed to Mexico and Honduras. Through the Buddy Gives Back program they collected thousands of dollars worth of therapeutic supplies and equipment for a special needs center in Roatan, Honduras. While in Roatan, the group was greeted by the mayor and several island dignitaries. Founding board members, Pamela and Jorge Arnoldson, Lithia residents, were made honorary citizens of Roatan.

2015 is already breaking last year’s records as they have far exceeded the number of families that will be joining them onboard this year’s conference as they sail from Ft. Lauderdale to St. Kitts, St. Maarten and San Juan from Sunday, October 25 to Sunday, November 1 on board Royal Caribbean’s Independence of the Seas.

On board there are workshops, sessions and events for all ages and abilities. Year after year there are people who sail with them who have no special needs connection.

“They see our group, the fun and excitement, and want to be a part of it all. It’s a great way to promote inclusion and teach others that individuals with special needs are just like those without. They like the same things, feel the same emotions…everyone is welcome,” said Jorge.

If you would like to take part in this year’s Buddy Cruise, the only way to do so is to reserve by calling 877-239-2789 #3. Volunteers are welcome.

In support of the charity’s continued success and growth, Pamela and Jorge were invited to take a private tour of Royal Caribbean’s Quantum of the Seas. The newest ship to Royals fleet boasts features such as the North Star, where you can be lifted above the boat for remarkable views, a bionic bar; order your favorite beverage from a tablet and a robot mixes and serves your concoction and even bumper cars.

“It is a technological marvel,” said Pamela. “It is a state of the art ship, absolutely stunning. I can see us sailing on this class of ship for a future event.”