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Best Buddies program receives renewed funding following COVID struggles

Graphic Courtesy of Student Senate

The Best Buddies program is beginning to grasp its footing once again on Drake’s campus after the pandemic forced them into a period of inactivity. 

Best Buddies is a volunteer-led program that aims to build and solidify one-on-one friendships with those living with intellectual and developmental disabilities to ensure that individuals that are often excluded from social events are included and are making meaningful friendships in the community. 

“(Best Buddies) wasn’t active at all during the 2021-2022 school year, so I’m trying to help bring it back, because I know members of (our) community really missed out on lots of social interactions and opportunities that Best Buddies offers,” current Best Buddies President Jessica Roberts said during the Nov. 3 Student Senate meeting.

Roberts joined the organization in the fall of 2020 and met with her buddy weekly over Zoom. After that school year, their chapter went inactive. 

At the meeting, Roberts requested extra funding to be used for Best Buddies meetings, and $1,650 was allocated for their organization.  “We have our monthly events, (which are) large group activities,” Roberts said. “They’re usually like parties and just kind of fun games and activities.” 

The funding request will also be used to support the status of the Best Buddies chapter. 

”We do have a national conference because Best Buddies is a national organization, and we are required to send at least one member to this conference in order to maintain our status as an active chapter,” Roberts said.

But this program not only lives out its days on the Drake campus, but they have also partnered with Best Buddies Iowa and done fundraising for its chapter as well as Iowa’s chapter as a whole. The Best Buddies Iowa chapter has been instrumental in supporting the Drake Best Buddies program to get back off the ground. 

Members of Best Buddies are duty-bound to show up for their assigned buddies. The program itself is difficult to access as the process to becoming a full-fledged member of the organization requires background checks and a real commitment to the Best Buddies mission statement. 

“It’s not just a casual, ‘Oh, you can come to this party,’ it’s important that it’s a safe environment for everyone,” Roberts said.

Best Buddies is a more intense commitment than other clubs at Drake but is nonetheless a rewarding experience for passionate people who care about supporting individuals who deserve just as much a chance to build friendships as anyone else.   

The Best Buddies program plans to advertise more thoroughly to gain attraction from the student body and plans to have a table set up at the next Activities Fair for the spring semester. 

Community Engagement Senator Arron Khan-Gumm expressed his appreciation for the Best Buddies program as the senators moved into their dialogue and the motion was approved for the allocated funds. 

“I think what this organization is doing is really beautiful and positive,” Khan-Gumm said. “My younger brother has autism, so I understand how isolating it can be to have an intellectual disability, and so I really appreciate this work…I think it is a commendable effort.”  

Best Buddies currently relies on word of mouth, so while the community may not be seen so easily with an untrained eye, know that they are there and that they care, and maybe you’ll be able to hear the excitement and joy their events elicit to the community and their members.    

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