By Nina Mendes
The founder of the FGCU Best Buddies chapter has been selected to compete in an annual, nationwide fundraising competition called, Champion of the Year.
Jenna Maringione, a senior at FGCU, has been president of the campus organization for two years and is responsible for introducing Best Buddies to the university.
Best Buddies is a nonprofit, global organization dedicated to improving the lives of adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Volunteers are paired with a buddy, and together the two promote leadership development and one-on-one friendships.
Maringione is the only college student chosen to represent SWFL, out of ten other competitors, during the SWFL Champion of the Year Gala on November 15.
“It feels really amazing to be the only college student to be chosen to represent our region in Champion of the Year [because] no one from FGCU has ever been a part of the gala before,” said Maringione.
Thirty-five cities across the country are hosting Champion of the Year galas.
Champions are chosen, like Maringione, to fundraise money and encourage their community to donate. The person who collects the most donations in their name becomes Champion of the Year in their region.
SWFL’s Champion of the Year selected Maringione because of her outstanding leadership with the organization at FGCU. She also demonstrated her strong work ethic during her summer internship at the Best Buddies Headquarters in Miami this past summer.
Diane Kratt is Maringione’s advisor and the Director of Clinical Experiences and Partnerships at FGCU.
“Jenna has been a determined leader since the day I first met her,” said Kratt. “I am very proud of her and happy that she is being recognized for her contributions to both the university and the community with the Best Buddies organization.”
Maringione began her journey with Best Buddies in her junior year of high school. Her current buddy is Chris, a thoughtful and kindhearted partner who is quick to crack jokes and is said to have a special talent at making people smile.
“People join Best Buddies to change the life of someone with an intellectual disability, but don’t realize that the person will change theirs,” said Maringione. “My life has become more positive since I have joined Best Buddies, and my passions have changed. It is [something] someone can only understand when they become a part of it.”
The proceeds raised during the gala will help fund Best Buddies and the million people the organization impacts across fifty-three countries and six continents.
“I hope to see Jenna become part of the Best Buddies organization at the national level and continue to promote inclusion all around the world,” said Kratt.
To help Jenna Maringione, donate here: jenna Maringione Fundraiser