After an accident that left her father with a traumatic brain injury, Jennifer Allen, Best Buddies’ Director of International Programs, was inspired to unite and spread friendship for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD).
“I know how important and sometimes challenging friendships can be for people with an intellectual disability.”
When did you first get involved with Best Buddies?
I first got involved in 2007 at Miami University of Ohio and I became a peer buddy for all four years.
What was your inspiration to become a peer buddy?
In 2005, my dad had an accident that left him with a traumatic brain injury. After the accident, it was really hard for him to maintain friends at a time it was needed the most. A bit later, a friend invited me to a Best Buddies event and I was inspired to join the movement because I witnessed firsthand how important and sometimes challenging friendships can be for people with an intellectual disability. I immediately connected with a group and got so much out of it myself.
What inspired you to pursue a career with Best Buddies?
I am very passionate about the mission due to personal experiences with family members with an IDD. I also recognized the huge potential to grow the organization and expand in new countries. It’s a very powerful idea.
Can you recall your most memorable experience at Best Buddies?
Any time I get to hang out with buddies. One of my favorite times was attending the Best Buddies Philippines Dance Nights and dancing for hours with Vico and Jess, Best Buddies Philippines Ambassadors.
Why are education and support so important for communities?
One day I was with my buddy, Geno, and we went to play basketball
in Miami. All of the courts were taken and there was a line to wait for
a court to open up. He interrupted a game and ran onto the court and
asked everyone to get off because he needed to shoot a half-court
shot. My heart immediately sank and I became nervous that they
would laugh at him if he didn’t make it. I found myself doubting his
ability to make the shot and almost stopped him, until he started
shooting. Geno not only made one mid-court basket but SEVEN in a
row. The crowd went wild! I felt horrible to have doubted him but it
taught me something in that very moment. It was a reminder that the
community, myself included, need not to put limitations on people
with IDD. They are capable of so many beautiful things.
What does Best Buddies mean to you?
Best Buddies means friendship, acceptance, inclusion, support and family.
Why is it important for Alumni to reconnect with Best Buddies? There are so many interesting networking events and opportunities to engage with the buddies and volunteer at one-off events. There is a true friendship network and endless ways to get companies involved through corporate sponsorship. It’s important to stay informed about the movement, donate,
and feel a sense of appreciation for the time and money you’ve contributed.