Best Buddies kicks off the semester with their first meeting
BY ARI MASTERS STAFF WRITER
Best Buddies, an organization which fosters inclusion for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities, rang in the start of the spring semester last Wednesday with their first chapter meeting of 2022.
Best Buddies International is a Virginia-based non-profit with a stated mission of “ending the social, physical and economic isolation of the 200 million people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD)” by improving access to “one-to-one friendships, integrated employment, leadership development, and inclusive living”. The organization has 77,706 members across 2,960 middle, high school, and college chapters across all 50 state, according to its website.
Mason’s Best Buddies chapter hosts monthly events and offers the opportunity for members to be placed in one-on-one friendship pairings with other members. Mason’s chapter also participates in regional Best Buddies events, where chapters all throughout the D.C. area gather together.
Chapter president and senior, Willow Dysard, has been involved with Best Buddies since she was in high school. She got involved with Mason’s chapter as a freshman, and now as a senior she is looking forward to her last semester serving as president. She says that the most rewarding part of her involvement in the organization has been the impact it has on members.
“Seeing the impact on our students from Mason Life that have a disability, seeing how positive having a friend and a group that makes them feel included and welcome, and seeing the smiles and the positivity surrounding that,” Dysard states.
Every seat in Merten Hall 1202 was filled at Monday’s informational meeting. Before Dysard called the meeting to order, members chattered excitedly amongst themselves, catching up with each other after the break. Dysard went over the schedule for the semester which includes a Valentine’s Day chapter event, the annual Best Buddies Friendship Walk and the return of other monthly events.
The get-together is particularly welcoming in what has been an extremely isolating few years for many of the members.
“It’s just really hard to form connections on the internet, especially for people with disabilities,” Dysard said. “I’m definitely trying to make more in-person events, and more things that are accessible to everyone on and off-campus.”
After the meeting, seniors Morgan Barton and Jack Shephard were eager to be interviewed. Both have been Best Buddies for all four of their years at Mason. Shephard says he was motivated to join the organization by the “events, activities and the fundraisers.” Barton says that she joined in order to “be social with friends, and to be with someone who’s nice to me.”
Both said that they remember the Best Buddies Proms, an annual regional event that has been put on hold due to COVID-19, as being one of the highlights of their time in Best Buddies.
Best Buddies will be hosting Saint Patrick’s Day events and a trip downtown for the Best Buddies Friendship Walk later this semester. Students who are interested in joining can contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.