Best Buddies event to honor Meagan Bell who died in Haiti car accident
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NORTHAMPTON — Before she died this summer at 28 in a car accident in Haiti, Meagan Bell of Belchertown was an active leader of the region’s Best Buddies program, which pairs students with special needs and community mentors.
At its annual Friendship Breakfast scheduled for 7 to 9 a.m. Thursday at the Hotel Northampton, the Best Buddies chapter at the University of Massachusetts Amherst will receive the inaugural Meagan Bell Spirit of Friendship Award created in her honor.
“Meagan was a longtime Best Buddies participant and a leader of Best Buddies activities in the Pioneer Valley for many years,” Isa Deloge of Northampton, the organization’s area director, said in a press release announcing the event.
More than 1,000 students from 22 area middle schools, high schools and colleges participate in chapter activities, Deloge said. At Thursday’s breakfast, local Buddy pairs will be on hand to describe the impact of the program in their communities and student leaders — both with and without disabilities — will speak. The gathering will also feature musical performances by members of the Berkshire Hills Music Academy.
Bell, who graduated from Amherst Regional High School, traveled to Haiti in July with her longtime friend Amanda Mundt, 22, also of Belchertown, to attend the opening of a summer school program Mundt had launched in 2011. The two friends were killed when their minivan was hit by a truck as they were en route to the airport to return to the U.S.
In addition to her work with Best Buddies, Bell — who became disabled after contracting meningitis when she was 2 — also volunteered with the Special Olympics and was helping organize an event that raises money for special education programs in South Hadley. She also had a business under the group Community Resources that sold snacks to area businesses.
Local Best Buddies programs are part of Best Buddies International, a nonprofit founded in 1989 by Anthony Kennedy Shriver to set up a global volunteer movement to create opportunities for friendships, employment and leadership for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities.
Tickets to Thursday’s Friendship Breakfast are available online at www.bestbuddiesmassachusetts.org or by calling 259-1714.