UT Students are the ‘Best Buddies’

 

Best Buddies is an organization that promotes empowerment, friendship and leadership skills for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) by matching adults in the Austin community with UT Austin students in one-to-one friendships.

“We really focus on the idea that we have more in common with our buddies than we have differences,” Bethany Rolan, Best Buddies treasurer said. “Forming a relationship in Best Buddies happens much like all other friendships. We provide a relaxed and supportive environment--our annual Matching Party--for our buddies to meet each other for the first time each fall semester.”

After an application and interview, Best Buddies officers match each student with a buddy. The program requires buddies to see each other twice a month and make contact via Skype, phone or text once a week; however, friendships often far exceed these minimum requirements.

“Initially a relationship is formed and fostered through the on-campus events we host,” Jesse Scanlon, the membership coordinator for Best Buddies said. “Then, once the buddy pair has become more comfortable with each other, which usually doesn’t take very long, they begin hanging out outside of our bimonthly events and calling and emailing each other on a regular basis.”

Each pair of buddies is different, and finds their own unique avenues of communication and activities to do together.

“I formed a relationship with my buddy by listening,” Parker McCorkle, the vice president of Best Buddies said. “I listened to his likes, his dislikes, his hobbies, his background and his goals. I found common ground between us and that's where our relationship began to take off. My buddy and I have been 'paired' for 3 years now.”

Best Buddies is a college chapter of an international non-profit. Around the world there are Best Buddies programs that match individuals in middle school and high school and even online chapters. The chapter at UT Austin has a team of officers that coordinates more than 200 pairs of buddies and many more volunteers.

Best Buddies members can either be paired with someone with IDD in a one-to-one friendship, or can be associate member if they’re not ready to commit to a buddy yet.

“Associate members is our next level of membership,” Alexandra Rammel, the president of Best Buddies said. “Our associates are the unsung heroes of Best Buddies--they keep us running!  They are not matched, but they do come to all the events and help wherever they are needed.  They are often asked to hang out with buddies who may be by themselves, asked to assist officers with a task or just get to hang out with different people.”

Best Buddies offers many opportunities for students to get involved with a hands-on service organization.

“We ask our matched pairs to commit to a full year of friendship, so we recruit new college buddies each fall,” Rolan said. “However, we are always looking for great associate members who can commit to coming to all of our events--two Sunday afternoons per month.”

Students join Best Buddies because they want to give back, but they often see their relationship with their buddies as a gift rather than an obligation.

“I take more from Best Buddies than I give,” McCorckle said. “I never thought that would be the case. The most rewarding part for me is taking a step back during every event and being in awe of the joy among our members; it's pure bliss.”

If you're interested in getting involved with Best Buddies, you can email utbestbuddies@gmail.com or visit their website for more information.