Best Buddies is a non-profit, international organization that supports the inclusion of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, also known as IDD.
The Sacred Heart University Best Buddies chapter works with the organization by pairing Sacred Heart members with those with IDD so that they can form friendships and gain connections.
The chapter has been meeting virtually all semester but had the opportunity to see each other in person for a traditional Best Buddies fundraiser – the Annual Best Buddies Friendship Walk.
On the weekend of April 24, students met at Staples High School in Westport, Conn., along with other Best Buddy Chapters throughout Connecticut, to participate in the two experiences offered: the “Art Experience” and the “Sole Experience.”
The interactive walk is open to teams and allows for some to create their own walk if they choose. The “Art Experience” walk took place at Staples High School. However, the “Sole Experience” allowed supporters to do the walk from the comfort of their own neighborhood.
The Best Buddies Friendship Walk website states, “Join 40,000 walkers across the country to support the Best Buddies programs in your schools, workplaces and communities.”
Best Buddies Connecticut has raised over $30,000 as of April 25. The money is fundraised by teams from colleges like University of Hartford, Eastern Connecticut State University, and Quinnipiac University, who create teams of students within their chapter. Companies like Stanley Black and Decker and high school chapters like North Haven High School are also among some of the top teams.
The organized event at Staples High School included activities like an interactive art-themed route with interactive stops along the way, including caricature artists, face painting, musical performances and art supplies given out to all participants.
Amber Lieto is the Vice President of Sacred Heart’s Best Buddies chapter.
“This is a great opportunity for everyone to grow and reflect on the importance of friendship,” said Lieto. “I am forever thankful for the relationships I have made through this organization.”
The chapter holds bi-weekly meetings and monthly events both on and off campus.
“We try putting on events that are not only enjoyable for our associate members, but also inclusive for all of our buddies,” said Lieto.
As COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, they hope to go back to previous events, such as potlucks, scavenger hunts, painting and many more fun events.
Lieto said the one event that they missed this year was the “Buddy Reveal,” where buddies get to meet their peer buddies.
“This is a fun time to make new connections and find ways to connect to those you may have never talked to before,” said Lieto.
Best Buddies advocates for those with intellectual and developmental disabilities by giving a platform for voices to be heard.
The Best Buddies website reads, “You’ll be making the world more welcoming to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities – one friendship, one job, and one life-changing connection at a time.”