Between tests, homework and outside commitments, college life can be stressful. But for Lauren Duffy, a fourth-year in health sciences, Best Buddies has shaped her college experience to something meaningful beyond classroom experiences.
Best Buddies is an nonprofit organization with chapters all around the world that aim to create one-on-one relationships between volunteers and people in their communities with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Established in 2010, the Ohio State chapter of Best Buddies has more than a total of 200 members, consisting of one-on-one peer buddies as well as general associate members.
“The goal is to help spread the overall mission of focusing on abilities and not disabilities, and to increase inclusion for buddies,” chapter president Duffy said.
The age group of the buddies vary for different chapters. At OSU, the buddies range from ages 18 to 50.
“Most of the kids that are involved in the program are not attending any post-graduate high school (programs),” said Doug Green, father of Jacki Green, who has been partnered with a volunteer from OSU’s chapter for three years. “Being on campus gives them another social outlet of peers their own age”
Buddies are paired up during a match party that takes place early in the year, Duffy said. From there, different events take place for the the buddies to convene, bond and form friendships. This past Monday, the Honors and Scholars Program hosted a Best Buddies Halloween party that was open to all students, whether they were involved in the program or not. Best Buddies has also visited a pumpkin patch and has hosted OSU football watch parties.
Melissa Funk, a fourth-year in psychology, has been a peer buddy since her sophomore year.
“It’s easy to get involved, even if you don’t think you have enough time,” Funk said. “Associate buddies have an opportunity to hang out at the events and become friends with everyone.”
Duffy said most buddies have majors unrelated to special education or occupational therapy.
“Most of our people are well rounded and have diverse majors,” she said “We like diversity because (that means) the buddies get diversity.”