On Friday, October 23, 30 high school students gathered in Harwood’s Common Ground Cafe to meet their new Best Buddies. The Match Party, as it is called, marks the launch of Harwood’s third annual Best Buddies Club. The Harwood cafe was filled with excitement as buddies enjoyed getting to know each other while carving pumpkins, joining group activities, dancing and having refreshments. Based on the smiles and laughter, the event was a huge success.
Members of this year’s Best Buddies leadership team include Emily Twitchell-Wood, Abigail Burfoot, Chloe Riven, Isabel Jamieson and Amber Proteau. The leadership team worked with Alison Watt, faculty advisor, to make matches based on mutual interests and personalities. All club members attend trainings to learn about disability awareness, communication and the responsibilities of being a Best Buddy. Buddy pairs get together weekly during school and twice a month for a special activity. In addition, the club meets bimonthly to enjoy group activities and support each other. Already in the works for this year are a holiday party and a campaign to “Spread the word to end the R-word.”
Best Buddies is an international, nonprofit, volunteer program that pairs buddies (students with intellectual and developmental disabilities) in one-to-one friendships with peer buddies (students without a disability). The mission of Best Buddies is to form a global movement that creates opportunities for one-to-one friendships, integrated employment and leadership development for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Its vision is to imagine a world where Best Buddies is no longer needed.
In the past, many individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities have had little opportunity to develop friendships outside of their special education programs. Harwood Best Buddies Club members hope to nurture an atmosphere of inclusion and acceptance while making a positive impact at school and in the wider community.