Meet Rebecca Burkee & Stephanie Graham
Best Buddies Wisconsin launched their adult Friendship program, Citizens, in June, 2013. The goal of this program was to create one-to-one friendships between local adults with and without intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). In August, 2013, Best Buddies Wisconsin made their first Citizens match, Becky and Steph. When they joined Citizens, both Becky and Steph were looking for the same things: an opportunity to get more involved in their community, a chance to experience new things, and meaningful friendship. Three years later, they will tell you that the Citizens program exceeded their expectations. Becky and Steph’s friendship continues to flourish and bring joy, not only to their lives, but to the lives of those around them.
From celebrating birthdays, to exploring Discovery World, and cheering on the Milwaukee Brewers, these two do it all – and most importantly, they do it all together! After being matched through the Best Buddies Wisconsin Citizens program for one year, Becky and Steph knew that their relationship had become a permanent part of their lives. In August, 2014, they decided to transition to an established match, which meant their friendship no longer had an end date. Becky and Steph truly exemplify the mission of the Citizens program and we are exceedingly proud of the friendship they’ve developed. They were even chosen to have a featured profile with NEWaukee! Each week NEWaukee highlights a Milwaukeean who is doing awesome things in the community, and Becky and Steph were selected as a pair to be featured! Check out their interview below!
Q: Where do you work and what makes your role awesomesauce?
A: Steph: I work as a PR Specialist and Copywriter at Steinhafels Furniture. It’s a great job!! Who doesn’t love looking at beautiful furniture? The company is also very community-focused, which is important to me.
A: Becky: I have been doing Special Olympics for 20 years. I have played many sports, including baseball and basketball. My favorites are bocce ball, bowling, and track. Unfortunately, I had to retire from track last year after a serious knee injury. I love hanging with my teammates and seeing everybody win cool medals!
Q: What do you love most about MKE?
A: Both of us LOVE Lake Michigan!! One of our first activities as a Best Buddies Citizens pair was watching the MKE Air and Water Show a few years ago on the Lakefront. Becky loves feeling the breeze on her face, and going to the Lake and feeling like she’s in Florida even though she’s way up in Milwaukee!
Q: If you could create one thing in MKE, what would it be?
A: If we could create one thing in MKE it would be more job opportunities and transportation for people with special needs. The amount of jobs available to those with special needs is still devastatingly low. Even if a person finds a job, getting to and from work is sometimes impossible, especially in the suburbs. Becky and many others in Best Buddies are hard workers, and would love to get the chance to help people and work more often!
Q: What local restaurant is at the top of your list?
A: We love going to Nessun Dorma in Riverwest with our friend Emily and our other girlfriends! We love the tasty teas, paninis, and soups. Some other favorites are Vanguard, The Gyros Stand, Tenuta’s, and Quaker Steak and Lube. So many great food choices in MKE!
Q: What is your biggest hope for this city?
A: Our biggest hope for the city is that groups like Best Buddies continue to grow and thrive. We also hope the city continues to have lots of cool and affordable things to do—both in the suburbs and downtown. Finally, we hope that violence levels decrease in the city. The police work hard to protect us, and we hope that things eventually improve.
Q: What does your ideal MKE weekend look like?
A: We both LOVE sports and the summer, so our ideal MKE weekend would be a Brewers game with our Best Buddies friends. We would also check out the Art Museum—we haven’t been there since the redesign! Another great weekend activity is the annual Best Buddies Friendship Walk downtown. Finally, a perfect weekend is spending time with our dogs outside in the MKE sunshine!
Best Buddies Wisconsin hopes to continue to create mutually-enriching friendships through our Citizens program, like the one between Becky and Steph. Interested individuals must be over the age of 18; living in Milwaukee, Ozaukee, or Waukesha Counties, and willing/able to form a mutually-enriching friendship. Participants can apply by submitting a membership application at www.bestbuddiesonline.org/citizens. Once participants submit an application and complete the screening process, buddy pairs are matched based on gender, age, commonalities, and proximity. Pairs commit to at least one year of friendship, seeing each other once or twice per month, and talking once per week. Just like any other friendship, each participant is responsible for paying his/her own way, providing his/her own transportation, and planning activities that work within his/her schedule.
The Best Buddies Wisconsin Citizens program is a great opportunity for adults that are looking to see the world from a brand new perspective. Citizens supports inclusion, socializing and friendship. To learn more about the Citizens program from other buddy pairs like Becky & Steph, watch this video.