Best Buddies is an inspiring program for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) that provides opportunities for them to be better integrated into society.
The organization is split into three different programs; one-to-one friendships, integrated employment, and leadership development.
The friendship program is split into five categories including middle school, high school, college, citizens, and e-buddies. Best Buddies says that this allows “friendships between people with and without intellectual and developmental disabilities” and creates a greater sense of inclusion, social mentoring, and an overall improvement in the quality of life for everyone involved.
The employment program helps to give people with intellectual and developmental disabilities secure jobs and allows them a chance to become more independent by supporting themselves. According to the Best Buddies website, “The Jobs program places focus beyond the typical jobs in which a person with IDD might be placed.” They take special care to match individuals with suitable jobs and a supportive environment. There are an estimated “81% of adults with developmental disabilities who do not have a paid job in the community.” Best Buddies helps to provide paid jobs to that 81%. There are around 1,303 total buddies employed by the program.
The leadership program educates and works to allow people with and without IDD to become public speakers, advocates, and leaders. Best Buddies believes that through its program, participants can “lead the effort within their community and beyond to build a more inclusive world for people with IDD.” The leadership program has both ambassadors and promoters. Ambassadors, according to Best Buddies, offer people with and without IDD the “opportunity to gain the public speaking skills, self-esteem and confidence needed to successfully advocate for themselves, their peers and Best Buddies in communities, workplaces, and government.” Promoters inspire youth to advocate for people who have IDD. They also help Best Buddies expand chapters and programs by working to organize events. There are currently 936 ambassadors and 6,468 promoters.
The Best Buddies programs are not specific to one kind of IDD. They work with people who have down syndrome, autism, Fragile X, Williams syndrome, cerebral palsy, traumatic brain injury and other undiagnosed disabilities.
They are “the world’s largest organization dedicated to ending the social, physical and economic isolation of the 200 million people with intellectual and developmental disabilities,” according to their website.
Best Buddies overall has 2,319 total chapters, 119,118 total participants, and about 1,191,180 people impacted by the available programs. The program is available in all 50 of the United States, 6 continents, and 50 countries.
Best Buddies also holds events, like the 22nd Annual Best Buddies Miami Gala: Le Cirque de la Nuit at Mana Wynwood, Florida on Friday, Nov. 16. Nearly 700 people attended the event and they raised $2.8 million in total donations.
To take your own action you can donate, attend an event, challenge, participate in a walk, buy items from their website, volunteer, fundraise, and/or advocate from their website.
“Best Buddies is working for a world where people with IDD are “so successfully integrated into schools, workplaces, and communities that its current efforts and services will be unnecessary.” The organization plans to continue to educate people about the needs of people with IDD until that vision becomes a reality.