By Mary Barczak and Chelsea Bongiorno
Walking into the Best Buddies Match Party on Nov. 28th, one would think it was just a bunch of college students hanging out and playing games. But upon closer look, it was actually a group of individuals trying to make a difference in disabled people’s lives.
EKU Best Buddies is a new organization on campus that focuses on socialization, awareness, inclusion and leadership development all focused around individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The organization became a Registered Student Organization (RSO) in August of this semester and currently has 20 members.
“The whole goal is social inclusion,” said Kara Farley, 20, junior communications major from Georgetown. “You treat [the buddies] like a friend, you hang out with them and talk to them on Facebook or even text.”
According to the organization’s constitution, “The mission of Best Buddies is to establish a global volunteer movement that creates opportunities for one-to-one friendships, integrated employment and leadership development for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. We do this at the college level by matching college student volunteers in mutually enriching friendships with persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities.”
Once a member of the Best Buddies organization, the college “buddy” is registered into the Best Buddies website where they fill out a matching survey. The buddy is then matched with an individual who is intellectually and/or developmentally challenged. The college buddy then talks weekly with the individual via phone, Internet, Facebook, etc., and has regular outings with them.
Mollie Kuebler, 21, senior social work major from Cincinnati, Ohio, and the college buddy director, said she was looking for a way to leave her mark during her senior year when she found information about the Best Buddies program. She said she started the Eastern chapter because the organization deals with something that hit close to home.
Kuebler said her brother has cerebral palsy, which led her to take action and allowed her to find the Best Buddies website.
“My brother was bullied a lot when I was younger, and it was sad to see,” Kuebler said. “It hurt him and our family. People just didn’t understand him.”
Farley said the organization’s members were going through the matching process and just recently matched with a host site. The majority of the buddies will come from Eastern.
Farley, the current treasurer said they will having many events in addition to a match party.
Farley said they hope to host events once they get enough matches, including outings to games, a Super Bowl party, bowling nights and maybe a prom function.
Farley said she didn’t really have much experience with disabled individuals, but added that in 2009, one of her cousins was born with Down syndrome. She said she would want someone to take her cousin under his or her wing and get him involved.
To learn more about the EKU Best Buddies program, contact Mollie Kuebler at 513-324-9409.