Best Buddies is a non-profit organization established in 1989 by Anthony Kennedy Shriver. The mission of Best Buddies is to establish a global volunteer movement that creates opportunities for one-to-one friendships, integrated employment, leadership development, and inclusive living for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD).
In middle schools, high schools, and colleges, Best Buddies operates as a student-run friendship club, which creates buddy pairs between students with and without disabilities. Best Buddies helps to create an inclusive school climate for students and a community culture of acceptance.
By joining Best Buddies, you will become part of a growing movement of people with and without disabilities, dedicated to ensuring everyone has the opportunity to have a friend. Students with and without disabilities are invited to serve as chapter leaders who plan events and engaging opportunities for members. At least four group activities are held each year both in school and outside of school. Some examples are pizza parties, bowling outings, kickball games, and ice cream socials. Each chapter determines their own activities based on availability of the members. Most importantly, members will be “matched” in a one-to-one friendship with another student from their middle/high school or peer-aged participant in the community at the college level.
As a matched member, you make a commitment to contact your buddy once a week; this can be by talking in school, connecting by phone, text, or email. Also, buddy pairs will make plans to get together twice a month. Many buddy pairs enjoy eating lunch together, going to school sporting events together, or hanging out after school. The purpose of Best Buddies is to foster natural friendships between two people.
Best Buddies program staff, a faculty advisor, and a special education advisor work together to provide the support and information needed to facilitate strong and lasting relationships. In colleges that do not have students with disabilities on campus, members are matched with adults in their community who have intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). When a school is matched with community participants, a host site coordinator (who works with adults that have IDD) provides support.
There is no individual cost to joining Best Buddies. There is a $350 annual chapter dues cost to high school and college chapters; however, chapters raise this fee through grants, donations, and school fundraisers. Keep in mind that just like any other friendship, if the buddy pairs decide to get together outside of school, each student is responsible for his/her own spending money and transportation.
Members must complete an application on Best Buddies Online and sign the agreement to participate. Once the application is signed by participants (and parents/guardians for participants under the age of 18), Best Buddies staff and advisors will work to match participants with an age appropriate buddy who has similar interests and availability.
The best way to help participants in the program is to support buddy pairs in the formation of their new friendship. Talk with your child about his/her new friend and ask questions. Encourage him/her to continue the friendship and assist with making arrangements for the buddy pair to spend time together outside of school. If you are willing to volunteer your time to make Best Buddies a success, contact the Best Buddies advisors at school.
Promoters seeks to spread the mission of inclusion to schools without a special education program. Promoters empowers youth to become advocates for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) by organizing and attending special events that promote advocacy and bring awareness to the disability rights movement.
Chapters host exciting activities and events that promote inclusion, provide opportunities for interaction with people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and raise awareness about Best Buddies at their school and in their community.
At the middle school and high school level, students who attend schools without a special education program on campus participate in order to gain the opportunity to interact with people who have intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) and learn about inclusion, the disability rights movement, and acceptance. At the elementary level, the Promoters program introduces the ideals and goals of the Best Buddies mission to students with and without disabilities on the same school campus through group events and inclusive activities. The Promoters program engages a variety of students in elementary, middle, and high school and community members with IDD who interact with these chapters.
Chapter activities and events address four areas of focus: awareness, engagement, empowerment, and interaction. Awareness to educate chapter members, peers, and the community on the disability rights movement. Engagement to get peers in the school and members in the community involved in Best Buddies. Empowerment to provide people with the opportunity to be a leader and a voice for Best Buddies. This includes chapter members serving as advocates of Best Buddies and getting Ambassadors to attend and speak at promoter chapter events. And interaction to provide opportunities for interaction with people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Planning events with these areas of focus in mind ensures each chapter makes the greatest impact possible in their school and community.
Members of promoters chapters must submit an application on Best Buddies Online (BBO) to be approved by the chapter leaders and utilize BBO to manage members and report on chapter activities. Promoters chapters must hold at least two activities per semester; one of which promotes interaction with people with intellectual and developmental (IDD). Chapters must identify a chapter president and faculty advisor; leaders are expected to participate in local and national trainings. Members should participate in a training about the disability rights movement and interacting with people with IDD.
Being a members of a promoters chapter empowers student leaders to be advocates and allies for people with intellectual and developmental. Each member of a promoter chapter is helping to raise awareness about the mission of Best Buddies, educate their peers about the disability rights movement, and working to create a more inclusive world. By promoting the ideals of Best Buddies, chapter members become leaders of a tolerant and accepting school and make a positive impact in their community.
The Citizens program matches an adult with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) in a one to one friendship with a peer without a disability. This buddy pair develops a friendship like any other and promotes a more inclusive world for adults with and without disabilities. All participants must be 18 or older.
A buddy pair is made up of two people, but there are also support roles that are involved with each match. Buddy pairs consist of a peer buddy, a person matched in a one to one friendship without intellectual or developmental disabilities (IDD) and a buddy, a person matched in a one to one friendship with IDD.
Citizen pairs are supported by a sponsor, a person who knows the buddy well and can serve as a support and resource for their friendship and a program manager, a Best Buddies staff member who creates matches, provides on going match support, and plans events and activities for buddy pairs to participate in together.
Participants commit to being matched for a year, communicating on a weekly basis, and getting together 1-2 times a month. Matches report on their friendship each month by completing a friendship update.
Matches are based on age, gender, location and similar interests.
There are a few steps in order to be matched in the Citizens program.
Membership Application – all participants (peer buddy, buddy, and sponsor) must complete a membership application on Best Buddies Online.
Background Check – all peer buddies and buddies must consent to a background check.
Phone Screening – the program manager will conduct a phone screening to get to know the participant and determine if they are appropriate for involvement in the Citizens program.
Home Interview – the program manager will go to the potential participant’s home to conduct an in person interview and provide an introductory training. *Sponsors should be present at the home interview for buddies.
Match Meeting – once the program manager has found a peer buddy and a buddy who will make a good match, they will host a match meeting to introduce the buddy pair to one another. If both parties feel comfortable with the match, this meeting marks the beginning of their friendship!
Making the right match takes time; the matching process can take anywhere from a month to over a year. Approved participants can communicate with Best Buddies staff for ways to stay involved until they are matched.
Participants pay $15 to cover the cost of their background check. Once matched, participants cover their own expenses for one-to-one outings.
e-Buddies is an e-mail pen pal program that matches persons with an intellectual or developmental disability in one-to-one e-mail friendships with peer volunteers who do not have an intellectual or developmental disability.
e-Buddies develop friendships through e-mail. Participants e-mail each other at least once a week for at least one year.
e-Buddies participants are youths (at least 10 years old) and adults with and without intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD).
e-Buddies is always free for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Because we are a nonprofit organization, we do charge volunteers without IDD ages 18 and over a one-time $50 fee. This fee helps cover the costs of checking references and processing applications. This fee is charged immediately upon completing the application process.
e-Buddies matches a person with intellectual or developmental disabilities (IDD) in an online friendship with a person without IDD. Participants are matched based on age, gender, geography (matches are never made between participants in the same state/province), and similar interests.
Best Buddies is dedicated to ensuring the safety and privacy of all our participants with and without intellectual and developmental disabilities. All applicants are screened and must agree to the terms of the e-Buddies Code of Conduct before they can participate. Once matched, all communication is conducted through the e-Buddies E-mail System. This e-mail system allows users to communicate without divulging their personal e-mail address and also filters out personally identifiable information and inappropriate content.
You must be at least 10 years old to participate in e-Buddies.
To join e-Buddies, fill out the online application at www.ebuddies.org/apply.
e-Buddies is a fun and safe way for members with intellectual and developmental disabilities to make a new friend, and can help develop skills in the following areas:
- Computer skills
- Communication skills
- Reading and writing skills
- Social skills
Best Buddies Ambassadors is a program that provides training for participants with and without intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) in areas of speech writing, public speaking, self-advocacy, and leadership. The Ambassadors program creates opportunities for participants to advocate for their passions and promote Best Buddies program.
Best Buddies staff identify volunteers in the community who are interested in learning public speaking and advocacy skills and volunteers who are willing to support ambassadors write their speeches by serving as speech coaches. Best Buddies staff train the speech coaches to support and empower ambassadors; they train ambassadors to develop engaging, progressive speeches that speak to the heart of the Best Buddies mission.
Best Buddies Ambassadors educates and empowers people with and without IDD to be leaders and public speakers in their schools, communities, and workplaces. Best Buddies Ambassadors is the next step for the Disability Rights Movement – teaching people with IDD the skills they need to successfully advocate. This program prepares people with IDD to become active agents of change.
After participating in a training, ambassadors are expected to find opportunities in their chapters and communities to share their stories and become more involved citizens. Ambassadors can speak to legislators and Best Buddies chapters; they can present at recruitment fairs and Best Buddies events. Ambassadors can also help collect donations, present to other interest groups, and train others with IDD.
Best Buddies Ambassador trainings are free and open to all participants in Best Buddies program.
Anyone who participates! The Best Buddies Ambassadors program gives participants an opportunity to play important roles in their local programs. Ambassadors will use the knowledge they gain to advocate, make positive changes in their life and community, and serve Best Buddies as a more confident leader.
Best Buddies Ambassadors is open to anyone seeking to develop advocacy and public speaking skills with the goal of sharing the mission and serving as an empowered leader in the disability rights movement. Though highly encouraged, it is not required that ambassadors also participate in one or more of our other programs.
Best Buddies state staff facilitate Ambassador trainings for their region at least once each year; for information on a training in your area, contact your local Best Buddies office. Best Buddies also offers a national training at the Annual Best Buddies Leadership Conference held each July at Indiana University. Those interested in attending and participating in this national event should speak with their Best Buddies staff contact and visit www.bestbuddies.org/lc for more information.
The Best Buddies Jobs staff sources and pre-screens candidates from a large talent pool that is referred by multiple organizations. Best Buddies Jobs’ highest priority is to identify candidates that are an excellent fit for your company’s needs and culture. The Best Buddies Jobs staff will determine if there’s an outstanding fit in the Best Buddies Jobs’ internal talent pool. If there is not an immediate fit, Best Buddies Staff will source for the specific position to find the right candidate. Best Buddies Jobs staff will work with businesses to determine the time sensitivity of the company’s needs in order to fill the staffing need within the required timeline.
Best Buddies Jobs will assign an Employment Consultant to provide support throughout the process. Support will include (but is not limited to):
- Providing a Jobs Recruitment Guide as a tool to assist businesses and Human Resource (HR) organizations with the end-to-end process of identifying employees through Best Buddies Jobs
- Conducting Employee Awareness Orientation training with supervisors and colleagues (as needed) to help staff understand how to work effectively with people with IDD
- Providing initial on-the-job training and then phasing out when the employee is trained to the employer’s satisfaction
- Maintaining contact with both the employee and employer on a monthly basis
- An Employment Consultant is available for retraining your employee if necessary
- Ensuring the success of the employee by providing accommodations needed by the individual
- Establishing workplace support networks, coordinating extensively with individuals the employee will interact with most
Best Buddies Jobs is a freestanding, community-based program offered at no cost to an employer. Best Buddies Jobs works with you to assess your company’s employment needs and then identifies a competent, productive and loyal employee to fulfill those needs. Additionally, Best Buddies Jobs provides ongoing services throughout the duration of employment.
Individuals with IDD who are exiting the school system or are no longer a part of the school system can join the program. Specifically, those who are seeking support to help identify and maintain jobs in their local community.
- Guest Experience Representative
- Document Clerk
- Office Assistant
- Fitness Assistant
- Teacher Assistant
- Office Coordinator