“The Brother I Never Had”
In 1995 Ron Pilkowicz volunteered for Special Olympics at the California World Games. He enjoyed the experience of working with people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, so his cousin recommended he call Best Buddies.
Bruce Epstein was living with his parents at the time and had been on the waiting list for a citizen buddy for a while. He and Ron were matched and thus began their Tuesday night tradition.
In the beginning, Bruce was noticeably insecure with the new friendship. “He would always find personal items to leave in my car so that I would have to come see him again,” recalls Ron, “He stopped doing that a while back. He doesn’t have to worry anymore.”
Since meeting  years ago, the Pair’s friendship has remained strong through life’s ups and downs. Ron was close with Bruce’s parents until they passed away.
After their passing, he helped Bruce transition into the group home where he currently lives. Ron keeps in touch with Bruce’s sisters – one lives in Orange, CT, and the other in Atlanta – and Bruce frequently comes to Ron’s home. Bruce says of Ron, “He made my life better. He’s one of my best friends. I like seeing him every Tuesday.”
Ron says Best Buddies is a very rewarding program to all involved, and it only takes a little bit of time. “Many people with intellectual disabilities don’t have common networking tools like the rest of us. It’s harder for them to reach out and find a friend.” Ron says it’s great to see how Bruce’s day brightens when the pair gets together and calls Bruce “the brother I never had”.