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Chapters of Best Buddies throughout Connecticut gather for a day of friendship
Photos by Erin Kane
“I think anyone, regardless of ability, should have someone who they can call a friend,” senior occupational therapy major and President of Quinnipiac’s Best Buddies chapter Nick Donohue said.
On Sunday, Oct. 29, the ninth annual Best Buddies Friendship Walk was hosted by Quinnipiac on the North Haven campus. Best Buddies chapters from all over Connecticut joined in on the day of friendship, fundraising, inclusivity and fun.
The goal of Best Buddies is to establish a world-wide volunteer movement that creates opportunities for one-to-one friendships, integrated employment and leadership development for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD), according to the Best Buddies mission statement.
Over 1,600 participants registered to help raise funds and awareness for Best Buddies on Sunday.
“Best Buddies is that real unique one-to-one connection, and just a sense of friendship I think is so important in society,” Donohue said.
Donohue became a member of the organization during his freshman year and has been paired with his buddy, John ever since.
The goal for Sunday’s event was to raise $140,000 as a state.
“On top of that (our goal is to) have fun, obviously we want to have a great time,” Donohue said. “Some of the things that’ll be at the event, (Porsche Audi of Wallingford) brings a display of their cars, so that’ll be there, but we’re hoping if the weather is calm enough we have inflatable games like foosball, an inflatable basketball game coming.”
“Some people get intimidated or nervous or they don’t know how to interact with those with special needs,” Schirra said. “Our friendships with our buddies, whether it’s our one-on-one buddies or our buddies in the entire chapter, those are just regular friendships that Quinnipiac has brought to us.”
There are two levels of friendship, associate members and the one-to-one peer buddy members. Associate members consist of individuals in the entire chapter, while there are those involved in the one-to-one matching as well.
“We go through the interview process to get to know likes and dislikes because the buddies on their end will fill out a form that has their likes, their dislikes; kind of their personality types. Those get matched into friendships,” Schirra said.
Schirra kicked off the events on Sunday by singing the National Anthem during the opening ceremonies. Soon after, the walk began. Buddies pairs could be seen dancing, smiling, laughing and making the most of the rainy Sunday afternoon.
Assistant Clinical Professor of Occupational Therapy Valerie Strange is on the Advisory Board for Best Buddies, but came out to the event for more than that.
At the end of the day Best Buddies raised $94,476.80. All funds raised will go towards providing the necessary tools for those with IDDs to become more independent, esteemed members of our society.
“In the end, Best Buddies is a big celebration of friendship,” Schirra said.