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Sam Students Become 'Best Buddies'
Free time, a bit of planning, and a desire for action go into starting a campus organization.
A passion for the work of the organization, however, is what will keep it going.
Passion for enhancing lives and creating lasting friendships is what has made the SHSU chapter of Best Buddies a success. Though only making its campus debut during the fall of 2001, this organization is already accomplishing much of what it has set out to do.
"People with disabilities are often segregated from the community," said Angela Heyduck, Campus Buddy director, "and we want to change that."
As a national organization, Best Buddies began in 1987, when Founder and Chairman Anthony K. Shriver realized the lack of opportunity people with mental retardation had to socialize with non-disabled peers. As a college student himself, Shriver also knew that students had the energy and commitment to positively transform their communities.
"Last Spring, a representative from Best Buddies came to campus and talked about the Best Buddies program," said Heyduck. "She wanted us to get Best Buddies started on our campus." After getting more information, Angela attended the Annual Best Buddies Leadership Conference in Chicago and worked with campus adviser Paula Adams to found the organization.
Best Buddies has helped impact the lives of more than 115,000 volunteers and people with mental retardation in hundreds of communities both within the United States and abroad.
Best Buddies offers a variety of programs to fulfill the organization's mission. Students on the SHSU campus participate in two of those programs: "Best Buddies Colleges" and "e-Buddies."
"Best Buddies Colleges" matches college students in one-to-one friendships with people with mental retardation. The SHSU chapter of Best Buddies works cooperatively with Bridgewood Farms, a mental health/mental retardation facility in Conroe. Students are paired with a buddy for an entire academic year, during which they meet with their buddy at least twice a month, maintain contact through letters, telephone calls, or e-mails, and participate in group outings and chapter meetings.
"It is so rewarding and fun to spend time with the clients of Bridgewood Farms," said Heyduck. "They are so caring and compassionate about life, and there is a lot we can learn from them."
Many students often have reservations about people with disabilities or time constraints simply do not allow the quality contact necessary to making the Best Buddies program a success. For students who cannot commit as much time, Heyduck encourages them to get involved as associate members.
"Associate members are a part of our program, but they are not matched in a one-to-one friendship. They are still required to attend all group outings and regular meetings," explained Heyduck. There are currently 11 SHSU Best Buddy members and 15 associate members.
Another option available to those interested in forming friendships with a developmental disability is the e-Buddies program.
The e-Buddies program works to create e-mail friendships between people with and without the developmental disability of mental retardation. E-Buddies agree to e-mail at least once a week for a year, in the hopes that the lives of both participants will be enriched through friendship.
Information on the e-Buddies program can be found by visiting www.ebuddies.org. Once applicants pass a screening process, a one-time registration fee of $50 is required to participate. The fee is waved for people with disabilities and college students.
Students of all majors are invited to take part in the Best Buddies or e-Buddies program. "I feel that sometimes, a situation like this is often more rewarding for the college student than it is for the buddy," said Heyduck.
According to the American Association for Retarded Citizens (ARC), there are more than 7.5 million people with mental retardation in the United States, along with 14 million college students. The challenge of the organization is to pair as many individuals as possible to make a difference in the lives of so many. "The challenge is outstanding," claims Best Buddies, "but with the power of volunteers and the generosity of our donors, it is attainable."
For more information on Best Buddies, contact adviser Paula Adams at 936.294.1107, College Buddy Director Angela Heyduck at 936.295.1982, or the Best Buddies website at www.bestbuddies.org.
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Telephone: 936.294.1836; Fax: 936.294.1834