Best Buddies provides opportunities for one-to-one friendships between students and adults with intellectual disabilities

Celeste Ki

Striving for inclusion for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD), Iowa State University is home to one of Best Buddies’ 2,300 chapters.

Best Buddies is a nonprofit organization that started in 1989 when the founder, Anthony Schriver, wanted to provide friendships and inclusion to his cousin who had an IDD. It has grown to be international, including being at Iowa State University. Their mission is to allow for one-to-one friendships between college students and adults with an IDD.

“The student volunteers are paired with someone who has an IDD,” Alexandra Francke, vice president of Best Buddies, said. “ You have the same person while you’re in Best Buddies and you will do stuff together during meetings and outside the classroom. You have a one-to-one friendship.”

According to Carley Lynch, president of Best Buddies, the goal is to have at least four interactions each month with your buddy, whether it’s being together at meetings, spending time together or video calling. They currently have over 97 members and are continuing to grow.

Best Buddies typically holds meetings on campus once a month, but they also do other activities outside the classroom such as scavenger hunts, movie nights, making crafts or attending events together.

Being part of Best Buddies has shown to be beneficial for both the students and the buddies. Monica Pietig, activities coordinator for Best Buddies, shared that her favorite experience was when her buddy gave Pietig a hug for the first time and said Petig’s name. “She’s not very verbal and you could see her eyes light up when she saw me,” Pietig said.

Pietig stated she got involved in Best Buddies because she had a brother who had an IDD. “People need to know how to have friendships and relationships with everyone,” Pietig said. “Some people may feel awkward when they don’t know how to, so the more people we educate the better.”

Michael Otten, treasurer of Best buddies, stated his favorite experience was two years ago when Best Buddies went to the Iowa Energy Game as a group and the buddies got to stand on the floor for the national anthem. “We got to meet the players in the locker room, and the buddies really loved this experience,” Otten said.

For those who are interested in Best Buddies or may want to volunteer, contact Carley Lynch at [email protected].