Pope John Paul II High School

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Fantastic Friends of Suburban Philadelphia Featured on CBS Philly


Pope John Paul II High School is thrilled to share a featured news story that aired on the Brotherly Love segment of CBS Philly this morning and will air again at 5:00 p.m. this evening.

Almost a year ago, Gabrielle Durand '17 began the Suburban Philadelphia Chapter of Fantastic Friends, a group that coordinates special events and fosters meaningful relationships for youth with special needs.

Gabby began this chapter as a way to help change the stereotypes associated with special needs children and young adults by creating events that would give those with special needs the opportunity to socialize with their neuro-typical peers and peers who have similar or different needs. "Volunteer friends" include many students from Pope John Paul II High School, and all of the teens involved in Fantastic Friends have found immense joy in the group. The young people quickly found common interests and have spent the year creating everlasting friendships.

The Fantastic Friends Suburban Philadelphia Chapter has hosted many events at PJP, such as the Summer Slam party featured in this clip. PJP was very willing to partner with Gabby throughout the year to provide the space she needed to host dances, movie nights, and other events that encouraged acceptance for both PJP students and their new friends.

With Gabby's recent graduation from PJP, her sister Julia '20 will be leading her Fantastic Friends chapter moving forward. Under Gabby's guidance, the Durand sisters have plans for Fantastic Friends to grow into an even larger organization in Montgomery County in the years to come.

We could not be more proud of Gabby, her family and friends, and all of the PJP students who have helped build the local chapter of Fantastic Friends into the successful group it has become, and most importantly, for helping their peers with special needs gain confidence while sharing their ideas, hopes and dreams, in an accepting and loving environment.