Best Buddies spreads the word about inclusion

Stevenson University’s Best Buddies club is preparing for the Best Buddies Friendship Walk at the University of Maryland, College Park, on May 4, 2019.

Best Buddies is an international nonprofit organization dedicated to creating one-to-one friendships, integrated employment, leadership development, and inclusive living for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Best Buddies is the largest organization dedicated to ending the social, physical and economic isolation of the 200 million people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, according to bestbuddies.org.

Stevenson University’s Best Buddies outside of the Xfinity Center in College Park, Md. for the 2018 Friendship Walk. (Photo from Stevenson Best Buddies Facebook).

This annual walk brings together all of the Best Buddies clubs in the state of Maryland. On April 13, members of Stevenson’s Best Buddies club will host a picnic with their buddies at the Patapsco Valley State Park. The club will be tie-dying t-shirts for the friendship walk in May.

Stevenson’s chapter of Best Buddies works with Changing People’s Lives (CPL), an organization that also helps people with disabilities. Students who join Best Buddies have the option of being a peer buddy, which is a one-on-one friendship with one “buddy.” Best Buddies members meet with their buddy twice a month and contact them once a week. Rachel Davies, a junior Best Buddies member, said, “I completely fell in love with how happiness just radiates out of the buddies at all of the events.”

The Best Buddies club will host an event outside of Rockland encouraging students and staff to pledge to not use the R-word, ‘retard(ed).’ The “Spread the word to end the word” movement has gained much support since its inaugural campaign in 2009.

According to its website, “The R-word hurts because it is exclusive. It’s offensive. It’s derogatory.” When people pledge, they are committing to “creating more accepting attitudes and communities for all people.”

The Spread the Word campaign encourages people to stop using the R-word, since it has a derogatory connotation. As of now, over 700,000 people have made online pledges to stop using this word. (Photo from the Spread the Word website)

This movement works to create more accepting attitudes and communities for all people. After all pledge cards are signed, the club will decorate a large banner with all of the Stevenson students who pledged to not use the R-word, according to staging.r-word.org.

The president of Stevenson’s chapter of Best Buddies, Kaitlyn Walsh, appreciates this movement because it helps to promote acceptance of all people, even those with disabilities. This movement is an easy way to encourage a more accepting future for all people.

Those interested in joining Best Buddies can contact Kaitlyn Walsh through her campus email for meeting information.

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