The Auburn University Chapter of Best Buddies is an organization that helps so many people by doing the simplest things. The mission of Best Buddies is to establish a global volunteer movement that creates opportunities for one to one friendships, integrated employment and leadership development for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
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Best Buddies was established here at Auburn University in 1993. Originally there were only 20 members and now the organization is going strong with 200 members. Best Buddies is constantly growing and they enjoy every minute of it.
Kaitlyn Croughwell, president, considers working with Best Buddies an honor, and that every Buddy will always have a place in her heart.
“Volunteering with people with intellectual disabilities has always been my passion and I truly believe that I get more from our buddies than I am ever able to give back to them,” Croughwell said.
Best Buddies also finds a way to give back to the community themselves. They work with multiple organizations around Lee County. This semester they are specifically working with the East Alabama Food Bank to help them sort cans when donations arrive. Best Buddies works year-round on campus with the SGA programs Freshman Forum and REACH.
Working with Best Buddies is not considered a job or task though. It is considered pure joy to be around these individuals. Lauren Swindle, vice president of event coordination, has been involved with Best Buddies for two years and says that Best Buddies is a representation of unconditional love.
“These adults may be labeled as disabled, handicapped or retarded by our society, but they are so smart and have some of the biggest hearts around,” Swindle says, “they make me strive to enjoy every single second of life and to continue to love on others just as Christ has called us to love.”
Each month Best Buddies has an event. Most times the events are scheduled around whatever holiday takes place in that month. Their annual events are a matching party, Halloween party, Thanksgiving dinner, Christmas party, Valentine’s party, movie nights, bowling, Easter egg hunt and an end of the year banquet. The event planning starts with the Buddies, ends with the Buddies and throughout their main goal is the Buddies.
One of the Buddies, Ann Finlen, is thankful for Best Buddies and knows that the organization is irreplaceable to her.
“Best Buddies has always been there for me and I will never forget when they were there for me when my dad died,” Finlen said.
Obviously Best Buddies cannot exist without the help of their volunteers. Swindle says that the organization runs solely off of their volunteers and that nothing could happen without their help and dedication.
The Auburn University Chapter is one of the largest Best Buddies chapters that is still unfunded. A long-term goal of Auburn’s Chapter is to have a state Best Buddies office in order to be funded and have more resources to continue to help the Buddies.
Want to become involved? The process is simple. At the beginning of the semester, Best Buddies is on the concourse for O-Days and there students can sign up to come to an information session. At the information session each student will sign up for an interview time. After the interview process is complete, they will then begin matching up students with a Buddy.
For more information you may visit the Best Buddies website or find them on Facebook.
“My truest disability has been my ability to overcome my physical disability.”-David A. Paterson.