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At homecoming, Oceanside ‘Best Buddies’ act the part

Best Buddies International members Shane Goldstein and Julia

Best Buddies International members Shane Goldstein and Julia Sollinger hang out at Oceanside High School's homecoming celebration on Oct. 10, 2015. Photo Credit: Megan Miller

Julia Sollinger and Shane Goldstein have been friends since kindergarten. It was 13 years ago when they discovered a shared passion for the dramatic -- each playing a role in Oceanside Kindergarten Center’s rendition of “The Wizard of Oz.”

Goldstein played the Tin Man. Sollinger played a munchkin.

Now, the physical proportions of those childhood roles are accurate -- Goldstein towers over Sollinger by more than a head, standing side by side along the football field at Oceanside High School during the homecoming celebration Saturday.

“Julia has always been much shorter than I am,” Goldstein said, smiling.

They were at a table displaying neatly folded piles of “Best Buddies” apparel -- representing Best Buddies International, an organization that partners students with and without intellectual disabilities. Senior Goldstein and junior Sollinger, both 17, are members of the Oceanside High School chapter, which was the first on Long Island when it was established 11 years ago.

Sollinger has autism spectrum disorder. Goldstein doesn’t. For him, their difference in height is as inconsequential to their friendship as Sollinger’s disability.

“A disability doesn’t effect your character and it doesn’t effect the kind of person that you are,” Goldstein said. “There is no reason that people with or without disabilities can’t be friends and can’t enjoy spending time together.”

That sentiment has been proven through the support shown to Best Buddies, which raised $900 during the homecoming celebration -- $500 via a donation from the Oceanside football team and $400 through Best Buddies apparel sales.

“That’s their way of giving back,” said Laura Gavelick, a founder of the OHS Best Buddies chapter and special education adviser at the school. Gavelick said some of the money will be spent toward a new sound system to use during the chapter’s many events.

Both Goldstein and Sallinger are largely involved in school -- Goldstein holds a position on the executive board of eight organizations, including the Oceanside Thespian Troupe. Sollinger remained true to the roots of her childhood by immediately becoming involved with the Thespian Troupe during her freshman year.

“Shane is the one who gets it. He knows how to talk to her and other ‘best buddies’ as well,” Julia’s father, Ed Sallinger, said about the pair’s relationship.

Last spring, Goldstein and Sallinger returned to the stage together in the high school’s depiction of the “Music Man.”

Goldstein played “The Music Man.” Sallinger played a member of his marching band.

When asked her favorite part about Goldstein, Sallinger exclaimed, “He’s my best buddy!”

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