As talking and laughter fill the second floor of the Stern Center, new and old members of Best Buddies gather at the organization’s annual “Match Party” to meet new friends. By playing corn hole and doing other various activities, members begin the process of getting to know their potential “buddies” for the upcoming year, with strong friendships already beginning to form.
As an organization, Best Buddies aims to pair students with disabilities with other students to form lasting friendships. With fifty students registered and forty buddies total, the organization is beginning to grow. Rachel Spivey, a junior at the College and President of Best Buddies, has had a passion for the organization since her freshman year. She said, “We are on a big mission. We want to make sure our buddy pairs are compatible, and that everyone makes a friend. We really want to see a friendship develop.”
Some students formed an instant connection with their buddies, such as junior Steven Steinbacher. Although this is only his first year, Steinbacher already feels as if he is making an impact in someone’s life. While attending the very first event of the year, the Charleston Riverdogs baseball game, Steinbacher was approached by his present buddy, James. Steinbacher explains, “My buddy [James] walked up to me and said he wanted to be my buddy. It really just went from there. We have already celebrated his birthday by going to get pizza, and plan on hanging out a lot more by going out to dinner, bowling, or the movies.”
At the following event, the Best Buddies’ annual “Match Party,” was where most of the friendships really got started. Even though the minimum requirement for members of Best Buddies is to contact a buddy twice a month, many members meet with their buddies twice a week or more. Junior John Smith said, “My buddy, Joey and I get along really well. We met at the Match Party, and he seemed to be a good guy. We get lunch, go bowling and are planning to go to some basketball games.”
Although the year is only just getting started, Best Buddies is already in full swing. Members are already feeling inspired and ready to make a difference within the community and in fellow students’ lives. Smith said, “It’s always inspiring to hang out with our buddies – they always have a smile on their face and are excited for whichever activities that are planned. It’s a great place to interact with people and make a friend.”
Upcoming events for Best Buddies include a Buddy Walk at Daniel Island on October 6, a Fall Festival at Stern Center Gardens on October 26, a Halloween Dance at the Citadel on October 28 and a Thanksgiving Potluck on November 16, also being hosted at Stern.
Meetings for Best Buddies are held every first Thursday of the month in the Education Center. Although all of the buddies have already been matched up, the organization still welcomes associate members to help volunteer, fundraise, and interact. Contact Rachel Spivey at email@example.com for more information.