During Big 33 week, 34 of the state’s best football players are joined together for seven days, preparing for one game.
It’s a short time for the team to bond but thanks to the Buddy program, the players are guaranteed to leave the week with lifelong friendships.
The Buddy program, which was started in 1985, pairs a child with special needs with a Big 33 player. In past years, the buddies would take an afternoon to relax, throwing footballs and bonding. But this year, for the first time, the buddies played a flag football game.
It was Pennsylvania against Maryland Wednesday night, with football buddies proudly wearing their players’ number on their jersey. The field at Lower Dauphin High School was packed with friends and family, and coaches were hard to hear thanks to the cheerleading buddies on the sidelines.
During the game, buddies learned football skills, sportsmanship and touchdown dances from their players. Afterwards, the players explained they learned more from their buddies. “He’s teaching me just to enjoy life you know, not to always stress life. Just to go out there, have fun and play hard,” said Central Dauphin East graduate, Chase Edmonds.
Lower Dauphin graduate, Joe Julius, added, “The way they live their lives is how I want to live my life. They’re always happy and they always do the right thing.”
This isn’t the last time the buddies will be together, the buddies will escort their players on to the field before Saturday’s Big 33 classic. The game is at 7 p.m. at Hersheypark Stadium.