Best Buddies is a non-profit organization dedicated to creating opportunities for one-to-one friendships, integrated employment and leadership development for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. And what a wonderful organization it is!
I was reminded of the value of friendship, a thing many of us take for granted, and how a life without it can be so very desolate. This organization is particularly helpful to high school and college age people with intellectual disabilities, a time in everyone’s life that is made richer by friendships. With this kind of social and emotional support, many people with disabilities develop the necessary social skills to better able to integrate into the flow of life and the workforce.
We had a great party at Noblesville, IN Barnes & Noble, gave away some goodies, raised some money for Best Buddies and more importantly raised people’s awareness of this great organization. You see, up until recently, I didn’t even know about Best Buddies Indiana. But in writing SLEEP NO MORE I created one of my all-time favorite characters, Maggie, a young woman with Mosaic Down Syndrome. During my research, I learned much, gained a better insight, and discovered Best Buddies.
I have a couple of “small world” stories, three actually. First there was the book club I visited in early January (on a horrible, frigid day, but these ladies were hearty souls who ventured out anyway). I mentioned my upcoming signing and the tie-in with Best Buddies. Lo, and behold, one of the women there was on the parents’ advisory board and has a son who participates in Best Buddies. Now M.J. and her son Jeff are among my newfound friends. I’m going to get a photo up on my website of Jeff at the signing.Small world story number 2. The woman on the right of this photo is Kim, she works for Best Buddies Indiana and was there the whole day. As Kim and I were chatting, we were discussing Noblesville, as I grew up here and live here, and discovered that her father was my band director when I was in junior high!
Small world story number 3. Katie, on the right in this photo, also works for Best Buddies. One of my friends from waaaay back, a friend of my older brother in fact, was at the signing, saw her and said, “Hey, she took care of me while I was in the hospital a while back.” He and Katie had a conversation, and yes indeed, Katie was a nurses aid and took care of him. (And we have lots of hospitals in this area!)
How about that for one short afternoon?
Katie also shared a story with me that I will never, never forget. She said that while she was in high school, she did not have a person who she could call “friend.” For four years, she ate lunch alone and walked the halls alone. Katie is now working to make sure others with disabilities such as hers don’t have to go through their days alone. It seems such a small thing, having a friend. But you don’t realize, until you walk those halls alone day after day, what a huge difference it can make in your life.
Best Buddies and the people I’ve met through them have enriched my own life. And I’m thinking Maggie won’t be my last character with an intellectual disability.
If you’d like to know more about Best Buddies, visit www.bestbuddies.org