SALT LAKE CITY – The University of Utah women’s basketball team has partnered with Best Buddies, which is an international nonprofit for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
The team focuses on the one-to-one friendships that the member of this organization may not receive on a normal basis. The women’s basketball team and the members have dinner once a month and play basketball with them on a regular basis.
In December, the Buddies came to the Jon M. and Karen Huntsman Basketball Facility to decorate ornaments. The Buddies also show up to every home game to cheer on the team and watch them play. Senior forward Paige Crozon expressed their appreciation for the Buddies coming to games and l how much they look forward to seeing them.
“I just like the idea of our team having a philanthropic aspect to it, where we can go and make a difference and help beyond the scope of basketball,” Crozon explained. “I really enjoy it because they are fun and light-hearted. They really enjoy and appreciate having us there. You just feel like you are making a difference when you are working with your Best Buddy. They are just so grateful to be your friend, and I think that’s pretty rewarding.”
Crozon, who is in her final season with the Utes, has thoroughly enjoyed her time spent with Best Buddies.
“They are always smiling and are so excited to talk to you. Quite a few of them are always at our home games as well; you can always hear them cheering us on, especially the Buddy that you’re partnered with. It’s always really great to see how much they enjoy basketball and how they are such loyal fans. I think it’s just reassuring, no matter what you do on the court or whatever mistake you make, they are still going to be there and support you, they’re just happy you’re out there on the court. It’s very comforting and rewarding knowing that there will always be someone cheering you on no matter what,” Crozon said.
With this being Crozon’s last season, she is going to miss working with Best Buddies, but hopes to continue doing her part in the community after her time with the Utes is over.
“I’ll definitely miss working with Best Buddies, but after I graduate I’m going to try to find other ways to volunteer and give back to the community. Maybe it will be with Best Buddies, but if not, hopefully I can find another organization to work with,” She stated.
Tilar Clark, a junior transfer from Salt Lake Community College, has also enjoyed her time spent with the Best Buddies organization and the connection she has made with her Buddy.
“My favorite part is seeing how happy they are to spend time with us,” Clark said. “I think it’s really good that we give back to the community in some sort of way for everything that we get. We get to shoot with them and spend time with them, and it makes them super happy. You can see that they are enjoying themselves the whole time. It might be a small part of our time to us, but it means the world to them.”
Clark has enjoyed the activities they have done with the Best Buddies, especially spending time with her Buddy playing basketball.
“I would say shooting around with them has been my favorite activity, that’s been the most interactive activity that we’ve had with them. Another activity we did with them was decorate Christmas ornaments with them. Shooting around was definitely my favorite though, it seemed to be the one they enjoyed the most too. My buddy is wheelchair bound and she can’t really talk, but she has an interpreter for us so we still get to communicate. She is so sweet and she loves music, and to sing along and dance. She loves to pass me the ball and have me make layups. She is really sweet, and I love spending time with her.”
Clark also appreciates the Best Buddies’ continuous effort to come to every home game to cheer the team on.
“I think it’s so sweet because you can definitely hear them and they get super excited. They’re always super into the game and screaming our names; they are just so happy to be there. They get upset when we get calls against us, but they get very happy when something is going our way. Their enthusiasm and having them there is such a huge boost for us when we are playing in the game,” she said.
Clark has realized what the team has done for the Buddies in the aspect of accompanying them and spending time with them, but it has also made her realize what it has done for her as well.
“It’s made me really appreciative of the life that I have,” Clark explained. “Definitely giving back more is something I think is important to focus on. It feels good to give back to them and spend time with them, that’s something I really enjoyed.”
The members of the University of Utah women’s basketball team are always looking forward to spending time with the Best Buddies, and will continue to further their relationship with the organization and its members as well throughout the future.
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