Annie Gable celebrates her victory with a big hug from her Buddy, Ian Curly,
from the Best Buddies chapter at Haverford High School in Havertown, PA.
For over 30 years, Best Buddies programs have helped to create more inclusive communities across the United States and around the world. When founder, Anthony Kennedy Shriver developed the first Best Buddies chapter at Georgetown University in 1989, he likely never imagined that this social club for students with and without disabilities would become the global volunteer movement it is today.
With a mission to foster friendship, leadership development, integrated employment and inclusive living for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD), Best Buddies now has programs in all 50 states and over 56 countries around the world, impacting over 1.3 million people with and without IDD.
The elementary through college level School Friendship programs are bridging the social gap that exists between students with and without disabilities and fostering qualities such as leadership, empathy and kindness in young people who will become the thought leaders and decision makers of tomorrow.
Through Best Buddies’ Ambassador program, self-advocates and leaders are emerging to give voice to the next era of the disability rights movement and help to change antiquated perceptions of one of the most marginalized groups in our nation.
Much like their School Friendship programs, the Best Buddies Citizens program addresses the isolation that people with disabilities experience as adults by making friendship matches with members of their own communities. And with its newest pillar, Best Buddies Living, the organization is taking things a step further, fostering an integrated experience for people with and without IDD to become active, contributing citizens who live independently in a dynamic environment where they can learn, grow, and thrive.
Now, in the time of COVID-19, Best Buddies is needed more than ever. In Pennsylvania and across the country, Best Buddies Programs are being adapted to meet the demands of this moment and ensure that no one is left isolated and alone. Across Pennsylvania’s 125 school chapters, students are learning new and creative ways to stay connected. Innovative events and activities are hosted through platforms like Zoom and Microsoft Teams. From talent shows and movie nights to bingo and yoga, the ties of friendship remain strong among participants.
e-Buddies, Best Buddies’ pen pal program, seems made for a time such as this. Through the simple act of sending an email, members are giving each other the gift of belonging, making it easier than ever to impact someone’s life from the comfort and safety of your home.
The Best Buddies Jobs program has seen significant growth over the past few years by tapping into the unique talents and abilities that participants can offer and engaging corporate partners to find innovative and mutually beneficial roles for them to play. Much like countless members of the work force around the world though, 475 Best Buddies Jobs participants across the country have been negatively impacted as a direct result of this pandemic. For them, it is crucial that Best Buddies continues its work to build their skills and help them achieve greater independence.
Like many nonprofits, Best Buddies has been hard hit by the financial fallout from this pandemic but remains committed to moving its mission forward. In Pennsylvania, many in-person events have had to be reimagined, but they will go on in new and innovative ways to raise the crucial funds needed to support programs that are a lifeline for many Pennsylvania residents. In reality, this shift to virtual platforms has made Best Buddies’ mission more accessible than ever before.
With a spirit of resilience and determination, Best Buddies Pennsylvania is gearing up for its first ever statewide virtual Champion of the Year event on Friday, November 13, 2020. Twenty-one Champion candidates from across the state have been identified. These mission movers will rally support for Best Buddies over the course of a 10-week campaign. This dynamic lineup of nominees range from middle school chapter leaders to business executives but one thing they all have in common is their passion to create a more inclusive world. Learn more about the Champion of the Year nominees and find out how you can support this event and Best Buddies at www.bestbuddieschampion.org/pennsylvania