By Kerrigan Peoples
Having a friend to turn to can be the most comforting and life-changing feeling in the world—especially when that friend fights for your equality and breaks down the barriers holding you back.
Enter Best Buddies Ohio, the organization created to make sure people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) are successfully integrated into society.
“Best Buddies envisions a world where people with IDD are successfully integrated into schools, workplaces, and communities,” says Catlin Layton, State Director of Best Buddies Ohio. “Until that vision becomes a reality, the organization will continue to educate middle school, high school, and college students, as well as community members, corporations and employer, about the emotional, functional, and natural needs and abilities of people with IDD.”
Best Buddies primarily serves individuals with Down syndrome, autism, Fragile X, Williams syndrome, cerebral palsy, traumatic brain injury, and other undiagnosed disabilities. The Best Buddies organization aims to help its volunteers change other biases and perceptions in order to become a great friend to anyone.
“We make friendship a reality. It is really pretty simple; friendship changes lives and our program provides that opportunity,” says Layton. “We don’t stop with making a friendship; we provide leadership opportunities through self-advocacy training. These necessary social skills prepare people to get to work and have more successful careers.”
Anyone of any age can start a friendship chapter, where individuals with a need are matched in a one-to-one friendship. Middle schools, high schools, and colleges can start a volunteer board to make it happen. Partnerships in the community help create chapters for adults with an IDD.
“These groups can host an ambassador training, open a corporate friendship chapter, and support our mission through fundraising, including our annual Friendship Walk or Champion of the Year gala,” says Layton.
By reaching out to the community to raise funds and spread awareness, starting a friendship chapter, or bringing Best Buddies to a school or community near you, Best Buddies’ mission will continue as America’s first national, unified, social, and recreational program for people with IDD.