Six days preceding Halloween in the Whitebone Lounge, something spectacular occurred. A once a month meeting of the non-profit student run group Best Buddies, was set to start at 7 p.m. The members, costumed and excited, simply could not stand waiting and the event was in full swing nearly fifteen minutes early. Chapter President Monica Graves, decked out as a pretty stellar pink crayon, looked on with admiration as student volunteers and their buddies played party games only interrupted by bouts of hearty laughter.
“The best part about being involved in Best Buddies for me is seeing the students get to know their buddy who they are matched with,” says Graves, “It is so exciting when two people really ‘click’ and I can tell they will be great friends and enjoy each other’s company.”
As far as ”clicking” goes, the Whitebone Lounge typified words like ”connectivity” and “inclusiveness” that night. It’s important here to note exactly what the folks with Best Buddies do for the community. The “buddies” in this case are adult members of the community who have physical or cerebral disabilities.
According to the Best Buddies homepage, their objective is “to help people with intellectual disabilities gain valuable life experiences, leadership skills, and above all help establish new friendships.” This particular Thursday night did more than simply abide by that sentiment; between the doppelgänger vampires, witches and cow-folk (boys/girls), this objective was exceeded and a true sense of warmth echoed here, there and everywhere.
“The hardest part is when students graduate from university after being involved with Best Buddies for years and they will no longer (officially) be matched with their buddy,” says Graves, “fortunately, I know many students continue their relationship with their buddy even though they have completed the program.”
It’s obvious how an organization like this one maintained not only its 250 plus Canadian chapters, but how it has garnered over $10 million for its cause: nothing spoke of patronization, there were no placated smiles in the room; every individual had true interests resulting in a genuine sense of communal comfort. Graves then went around the room to one person at a time and introductions were made.
Beyond weekly contact between student volunteers and buddies, group events like this Halloween meet and greet are held once a month. This ensures the sense of community felt by all. T-shirts are given out to the members with the best costumes and more laughter is shared over reactions. Eventually the Whitebone reverts to its original state, but the collective warmth lingers.
“That’s what Best Buddies is all about and it is wonderful to see that, through the program, people are brought together and they form lasting friendships!” concludes Graves.
For more information on Best Buddies or to get involved, students can contact Monica Graves at email@example.com or fill out an online application at www.bestbuddies.ca