A champion for the Best Buddies cause

From left, Mayor Robert Chatfield, Matt Kalita, Prospect Senior Center Director Lucy Smegielski and Nelson Abarzua are pictured outside of the Prospect Senior Center. Abarzua has been nominated as a Champion of the Year candidate for Best Buddies Connecticut. –CONTRIBUTED

PROSPECT — Nelson Abarzua, a Prospect resident and administrative lieutenant with the Prospect Police Department, has been nominated as a Champion of the Year candidate for Best Buddies Connecticut.

Best Buddies is a nonprofit organization dedicated to establishing a global volunteer movement that creates opportunities for one-to-one friendships, integrated employment and leadership development for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

As a Champion of the Year candidate, Abarzua is working with teammates and Prospect residents Sami Fappiano and Matt Kalita under Team Abarzua to raise funds and awareness for Best Buddies Connecticut. The fundraising competition among candidates leads up to the Champion of the Year Gala, which is Sept. 8 at the Silver Sands Beach Club in East Haven.

Team Abarzua is seeking monetary donations as well as donations of products, gift cards and professional services from local businesses. Checks made out to Best Buddies CT with “Champion Abarzua Team” in the memo can be mailed to Prospect Police Department Attn. Lt. Nelson Abarzua, 8 Center St., Prospect, CT 06712. Donations can also be dropped off at the department.

Abarzua will also pick up donations. To schedule a pickup, contact Abarzua at 203-509-4873 or the police department at 203-758-6150.

Abarzua is no stranger to Best Buddies. Abarzua’s son, Dylan, was involved with the Woodland Regional High School Best Buddies chapter during his four years at the school. Dylan Abarzua helped to start a Best Buddies chapter at the University of New Haven, where he is a senior and the vice president of the UNH Best Buddies chapter.

Abarzua said he’s been involved with Best Buddies for the past seven years or so, helping his son with fundraisers and other events, and working with the Woodland chapter.

Fappiano and Kalita participated in Best Buddies at Woodland and moved on to the University of New Haven Best Buddies chapter, according to Abarzua.

Abarzua said he first met Kalita when he was in high school and has gotten to know him personally over the years. He helped Kalita get him job at the Prospect Senior Center.

“So, now Matt has almost 500 grandparents,” Abarzua said.

Abarzua said it’s a great feeling working with Best Buddies and he gets a lot in return from helping the organization.

“It is an honor to be nominated (as a Champion of the Year candidate) and to be able to raise for a great organization,” he said.

For more information, visit bestbuddieschampion.org.