Stevenson’s Best Buddies chapter continues to create lasting relationships and memories with those who have intellectual and developmental disabilities.
According to the official Best Buddies website, the organization “is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to establishing a global volunteer movement that creates opportunities for one-to-one friendships, integrated employment, leadership development, and inclusive living for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD).”
The Stevenson University chapter of Best Buddies differs from high school chapters because the buddies are not the same age as their peers. The buddies range from age 40 to 70 and are also involved with an organization called Changing People’s Lives, which helps to foster relationships and education for people with disabilities.
There are two ways for people in the club to be active and make a difference. One way is the associate role, in which people help set up, run, and break down events for a more behind–the-scenes job. The other role is to be a peer buddy, which pairs a club member with a buddy. This person is required to do activities with their buddy twice a month and communicate via email, text, or phone with their buddy or caretaker once a month.
The club has 38 members, with 15 of them being peer buddies. Becoming a peer buddy requires an interview process, as the organization wants to make sure that the best relationship possible grows between the student and their buddy.
Kaitlyn Walsh, president of Stevenson’s Best Buddies chapter, said that “forming a unique relationship with each buddy” is one of her favorite parts of being president.
The club hosts a few events throughout the year, including a match party where the peers get paired with their buddies for the year. The club also hosts a Friendsgiving event in Ratcliffe Community Center, during which all members and buddies do activities together and play games including bingo and make turkey-shaped balloons to shoot at with Nerf blasters. These events allow the club to create memories that the buddies will talk about for weeks to come.
Walsh added that the most rewarding thing about Best Buddies is “giving back to people who are forgotten or treated as if they aren’t members of society,” noting that the “buddies’ intelligence, positivity, and outlook on life” are all inspirations to her.
Those looking to become involved in Best Buddies should attend the involvement fairs or come to a meeting, which take place in the Brown School of Business and Leadership in room 400 or 305 at 8 p.m. on Mondays. The Stevenson Best Buddies Facebook page also offers a way to get involved.