LIST: Chicago area school closings

Teen with autism helps others form friendships through Best Buddies program

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CHICAGO — Jack Mayor, 19, said his first few months of high school was the darkest period of his life.

"Every morning was a struggle. It was just really hard. I literally had no one to talk to," he said.

Jack was diagnosed with autism and his parents were told friendships and emotional connections would be next to impossible for him, and by the age of 14, it seemed to be true until he was introduced to Best Buddies.

The non-profit organization has chapters in schools all over the world working to empower people with intellectual and development disabilities through nothing more than a friend.

"I met someone who has become my very best friend and her name is Josie," Jack said. "Her friendship was nothing like I ever knew. It was genuine. Since 1989, Best Buddies has helped facilitate thousands of friendships."

For Jack, it changed everything — how he felt about school, his confidence and most importantly the void inside.

Five years later, Jack and Josie are still the best of friends and the one  reason Jack heads back into highs schools every chance he gets to talk to kids just like him. "I want every kid to have the chance to find their own Josie."

Five years later, Jack and Josie remain close friends. Jack has since become an ambassador for Best Buddies speaking on stages to thousands and countless classrooms.

To Jack, every chance to share his story is an opportunity to change someone else's life.

"For kids like Jack, there isn't a cure for their disability," Jack's mom, Diana Mayor, said. "But there is a cure for their lonely heart and I can't ask for anymore than that."

Best Buddies is now in 149 Illinois schools —reaching over 8,000 kids. For more information visit

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