Best Buddies

PROJECT LOCATION: Middle Schools, High Schools, and College Campuses across the U.S.
ADMINISTERING ORGANIZATION: Best Buddies

CONTACT:

Laverne Lewis
Email
Website
POPULATION SERVED: Youth with Intellectual Disabilities

SERVICE TYPE: Service to enhance the lives of people with intellectual disabilities, including middle, high school and college students through activities and e-mail

SERVICES PROVIDED: Best Buddies is a non-profit organization dedicated to enhancing the lives of people with intellectual disabilities by providing opportunities for one-to-one friendships and integrated employment. Founded in 1989 by Anthony K. Shriver, Best Buddies is a vibrant, international organization that has grown from one original chapter to more than 1,000 middle school, high school, and college campuses across the country and internationally. Programs today reach all 50 of the United States, and Best Buddies has active international programs in Canada, Colombia, Cuba, Egypt, Ireland, Mexico, the Philippines and Sweden; with additional programs under development in Australia, Austria, Denmark, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Spain, Turkey and the United Kingdom. Best Buddies serves 50,000 volunteers in one year.

In today’s middle schools, students with intellectual disabilities often learn in the same building and walk the same hallways as their nondisabled peers, but they are left out of social
activities. Best Buddies Middle Schools is designed to improve the school environment by promoting friendships between students with developmental disabilities (Buddies) and students without disabilities (Peer Buddies). Students involved with Best Buddies Middle Schools are part of a growing movement of volunteers with and without disabilities, dedicated to ensuring everyone has the opportunity to have a friend. Socialization is one of the simplest, but most often underestimated, solutions to the pattern of exclusion people with developmental disabilities, including intellectual disabilities, have faced for decades. In addition to the benefit of developing new friendships, Best Buddies middle school programs also give students unique opportunities for leadership. With the support of school faculty and Best Buddies staff, students lead and direct the chapters in their schools. Best Buddies High Schools pairs people with intellectual disabilities in one-to-one friendships with students in public and private high schools.

In the past, individuals with intellectual disabilities have not had the opportunity to have friends outside of their own special education classroom. By becoming a High School Peer Buddy, volunteers offer a Buddy the chance to explore a new way of life and feel included in the high school environment. High School chapters are active in 421 schools worldwide. Each chapter is a registered student organization within their school and is led by a chapter president. The Chapter President is a student that is matched in a friendship and is willing to organize, lead and maintain a chartered chapter of Best Buddies for the duration of one academic year. Best Buddies Colleges pairs people with intellectual disabilities in one-to-one friendships with college students. By becoming a College Buddy, volunteers offer a Buddy the chance to explore a new way of life. Best Buddies Colleges is the premise upon which the international organization of Best Buddies began. The mission of Best Buddies Colleges is to provide an opportunity for college students to be matched in a one-to-one friendship with individuals who have intellectual disabilities. College chapters are active on 316 campuses worldwide. Each chapter is a registered student organization on their college campus and is led by a college buddy director. The College Buddy Director is a student that is willing to organize, lead and maintain a chartered chapter of Best Buddies for the duration of one academic year.

Paired with the 14 million college students in the U.S. and the 77 million college students worldwide, Best Buddies can make a huge difference in the lives of the 7.5 million people in the US and 250 million people worldwide who have intellectual disabilities. Best Buddies volunteers annually contribute services that estimate a value of $52 million—at no cost to the community. In addition to the traditional campus-based volunteer activities, and for those with limited personal time, Best Buddies helps people with intellectual disabilities connect with others through technology with its online friendship program, e-Buddies®. E-Buddies are matched based on age, gender, and similar interests. Participants agree to e-mail each other at least once a week for one year, although as the friendship develops, many e-Buddies write much more often. Participation in e-Buddies builds computer, social, and communication skills for people with intellectual disabilities, in addition to providing an opportunity for friendship.