Serving on the Best Buddies staff

Matt Burns and I at lunch one day. He is one of Indiana's best fundraisers
Matt Burns and I at lunch one day. He is one of Indiana’s best fundraisers.

I have been with the organization Best Buddies for more than eight years now. Best Buddies is a program based on building friendships between individuals and individuals with intellectual/developmental disorders (IDD). That is right. There is an actual program whose sole purpose is to help you make friends.

I fell in love with this program as a sophomore in high school. A teacher asked me if one of her students could sit with me at lunch. I was very friendly in high school so I didn’t see a problem with letting another person eat with us. I eventually learned that my friend had an IDD and was in Best Buddies.

I then joined Best Buddies so that I could spend more time with him. He became one of my best friends in high school, and during our senior year led the Mooresville chapter together as president and buddy director.

At Hanover, I continued my involvement and became president during the second semester of my sophomore year. I was able to attain an internship at Best Buddies Indiana (BBIN) the summer of my junior year before I left to study abroad. (If you want to hear about my KILLER trips in the land Down Under check out some of my earlier posts).

Some of our Indiana participants holding up the awesome Indy signs I crafted so long on
Some of our Indiana participants holding up the awesome Indy signs I worked so long to complete.

I loved being able to see how our state office works behind the scenes. I was able to see chapters get installed, learn how our database works, and was able to help get everything in order for our annual Best Buddies International Leadership Conference (BBLC). I worked on the conference last year, but sadly was abroad when the actual conference was here.

I was able to be the state intern again and worked a lot on BBLC this past summer. I loved it. I got officially hired by Best Buddies International (my email ends in super official, I know). I attended the conference as staff and not as the Hanover College chapter president. I worked with our ambassadors and college participants.

You never realize how monumental a movement is until you are in an auditorium, with 2,000 others from different states and countries, and you all are pumped and yelling for the same cause. The opening ceremonies started with a video showing Marlana VanHoose singing the national anthem, and then she appeared onstage. It was one of the most inspirational things I have ever seen.

Best Buddies Indiana College
Best Buddies Indiana college chapter presidents

BBLC is always inspiring as a participant, but it is even more phenomenal as a staff member. I get to work with hundreds of other staff members to ensure all of our students have a amazing time, that everything goes smoothly, and they learn all the leadership qualities they need to lead their chapters.

One day, I was able to spend all day with my fellow Indiana college chapter presidents. I met some extraordinary individuals. They gave me some amazing ideas this year for Hanover. I became friends with a large number of them, and I cannot wait to see them lead their chapters.

After the conference, we had a staff meeting, and we were told that Connor Coatney had finished his promotional video for us. His video is for Best Buddies and is about what it was like growing up on the autism spectrum and into a leader. He has an inspiring life and is going to lead Butler University’s Best Buddies to great things.

My journey with Best Buddies has been a exciting/inspiring one. I went from never hearing about it to HS president to college participant to college president to intern to staff. I will always be involved with this organization. I don’t care whether it is as a participant, staff or volunteer. Best Buddies has stolen my heart, and I will always be changed because of the people within it.

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