Best Buddies is an international non-profit organization that consists of volunteers that create opportunities and integration for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
The Best Buddies at Brock club is meant to connect students to buddies in order to create a fun, engaging and safe environment for everybody involved.
“A lot of the students [are] unaware that Brock [has] Best Buddies which breaks my heart because this is such a great club to be apart of, regardless of the field you are going into,” said Alyssia Elias, Co-President of Best Buddies at Brock.
Elias stated that Best Buddies at Brock began officially in 2008, although it was implemented in the early 2000s. “When we started in 2008, we only had six members in total, so it’s crazy to think that just last year we had approximately 91 members,” said Elias, sharing her amazement due to the rapid growth of the club.
Being involved with Best Buddies at Brock means either being matched with an individual that is supported through Community Living after a mandatory interview to assess your interests and hobbies, or simply supporting at monthly events.
“Students can [be involved] either by [being] a peer buddy or an associate buddy,” said Elias, explaining that a peer buddy requires more time spent with their buddy including activities such as grabbing coffee and going out to the movies, whereas an associate buddy is an individual who mainly participates in the monthly Best Buddies at Brock events. For associate buddies, involvement outside of the monthly events is not mandatory.
“Best Buddies at Brock is blissful, inspiring and energetic,” said Elias, “Even though Best Buddies focuses around adults with intellectual or developmental challenges, it teaches everyone how to interact and communicate with them. Students will learn the importance of inclusion and will learn that everyone is the same but some may need a little extra help than others and there is nothing wrong with that.”
“My favourite memory from Best Buddies Brock thus far was in relation to a phone conversation I had with a buddy I was paired with [my] first year [with the club],” shared Elias. “She had asked me what I was up to that week [and] I had told her how I had an upcoming test. To my surprise, she had ‘freaked’ out on me, asking why I was on the phone with her when I should be studying. She meant this all as a joke as she only ever has a kind heart. This is just an example that regardless of the physical or mental capabilities an individual may have, they still care.”
Elias said that Best Buddies at Brock offers “a semi-formal every year in April that allows everyone to dress up and indulge in catered in Italian food.” She said that the club, and those involved on both sides, also go bowling, play bingo, attend Niagara Ice Dogs games and do other activities such as make tie dye shirts and have karaoke nights.
Elias emphasized that being a part of Best Buddies at Brock is a rich and meaningful experience no matter who you are, and that by participating, you can help enrich the lives of others around you as well as help stop the stigma surrounding individuals with disabilities.
To learn more about Best Buddies at Brock, or become involved as a member, you can email them at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow them on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram under the name Best Buddies Brock.