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Best Buddies: An Organization Helping Friends in Need

A nonprofit organization that makes the lives of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) better has launched an initiative to become a household name by the end of 2020.

Best Buddies International, which works with people with down syndrome, autism, cerebral palsy and other un-diagnosed disabilities, offers one-to-one friendships, integrated employment and leadership development.

Anthony Kennedy Shriver launched the organization in 1989 with one chapter. It currently has more than nineteen hundred chapters with more than ninety-nine thousand participants throughout the fifty United States, fifty-four countries and six continents.

The initiative includes a strategy which will educate 4,000 Buddy Ambassadors, create 1,000 jobs for people with IDD and boost the amount of school-based chapters to 2,500. Among its many programs, Best Buddies carries out a student-run friendship club in middle schools, high schools and colleges, by forming student buddy pairs whether they have disabilities or not.

Best Buddies makes it easier for people with IDD to find an important closeness with their friends, obtain work, live on their own, among other objectives. Best Buddies also makes a job program available to assist people with disabilities find competitive paying jobs. Receptionist, document clerk, teacher assistant and fitness assistant are among some of the current positions held by Best Buddies participants.

An email pen pal program, called e-Buddies, which develops friendships through email, is also available. This program involves emailing each other at least once a week for a minimum of one year.

A number of events take place throughout the year such as the Annual Best Buddies Gala Back to School Night in Miami which is hosted by Best Buddies co-chairs Jackie Soffer, and Alina and Anthony K. Shriver.

Many celebrities and other recognized faces help support Best Buddies International.  For example, many celebrities take part in the Celebrity Ambassador Program including NFL Super Bowl Champion Tom Brady; Supermodel Cindy Crawford; Actor Pierce Brosnan; Actor/Producer Ron Howard and Musician Emilio Estefan.

The organization’s largest fundraising initiative, the Best Buddies Challenges, take in a ride, run or walk challenge from the Hearst Castle on September 10, 2016 or a Ride Tour de France Style in Miami on November 18, 2016. On June 3, 2017 Tom Brady will host a Best Buddies Challenge at Hyannis Port. And the inaugural Cleveland Cavaliers star Kyrie Irving Basketball Challenge will get under way this fall, September 24.

To sign on for Best Buddies, simply fill out an application at BestBuddies.org and sign the agreement to participate. The staff will work to complement participants with a buddy of similar age and interests. In addition, the Best Buddies Ambassadors program gives people with IDD a chance to use their skills to advocate and make positive changes in their life and community.