Best Buddies: A small club that makes a big difference

Best Buddies enjoyed a mummy-wrapping event to celebrate Halloween. (Tabitha Mansalley / McDaniel Free Press).Best Buddies enjoyed a mummy-wrapping event to celebrate Halloween. (Tabitha Mansalley / McDaniel Free Press).

McDaniel College has many amazing and fulfilling clubs to take part in. Unfortunately, there is one that many people miss, but makes a huge impact for a population on our campus: McDaniel students living with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Best Buddies is a national nonprofit organization that helps to highlight this often missed population, and “creates opportunities for one-to-one friendships, integrated employment, leadership development, and inclusive living for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.”

This organization started its first chapter at Georgetown University in 1987, and has since grown into a national movement with hundreds of chapters in communities, middle schools, high schools, and colleges and universities across the United States, including our very own McDaniel College.

The club is broken into two sections: there are the buddies themselves (those with intellectual and developmental disabilities) and there are the peers (those without intellectual and developmental disabilities) that are paired together and work through different activities in the hopes of “[forming] meaningful connections with their peers, gain[ing] self-confidence and self-esteem, and shar[ing] interests, experiences and activities that many other individuals enjoy.”

The Best Buddies chapter of McDaniel has had softball games, team egg hunts, Rec Lounge takeovers, their very own winter Olympics, and much more. Their most recent event was a Halloween celebration, which included a variety of great costumes, spooky arts and crafts, and a mummy making contest. Overall, it was two hours of fun, food, and finding new friends. In the future, Best Buddies is looking forward to having more holiday celebrations, and even hosting a formal dance for the buddies.

Both buddies and peers find being in the club extremely fulfilling and valuable, and have all found many perks to being part of Best Buddies. First-year student Lyla Martin is a social work major who looks forward to interacting with a lot of people (including those with disabilities), and finds that Best Buddies is an amazing place to practice her communication skills.

Her favorite part of the club is “getting to talk to people, and making new friends with McDaniel students and other people from the community. Everyone is so nice, friendly, and funny.”

Abby Renzulli is one of the presidents of the club, and has been working with Best Buddies since she was in high school.

“I’ve always just loved working with people who have disabilities, and saw Best Buddies to continue that passion in college,” said Renzulli.

Renzulli encourages everyone to join.

“You can’t have a bad time when you’re at Best Buddies,” said Renzulli. “It’s just not possible; you come and you have fun, you eat some snacks, you hang out with friends, you meet new people and it’s at the end of the week so it’s a good release. You can forget about all your problems because you’re just focusing on having a good time. Who wouldn’t want that?”

The club meets monthly on Fridays, and is looking for both allies and buddies to join. If you are interested, you can reach out to mcdanielbestbuddies@gmail.com for information on meetings and events.