Program encourages friendships between students, disabled

The TCU chapter of Best Buddies provides students and members of the Fort Worth community with intellectual and developmental disabilities with the opportunity for making lasting friendships.

“The mission of Best Buddies is to establish a global volunteer movement that creates opportunities for one-to-one friendships, integrated employment and leadership development for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD),” according to the organization’s website.

Lauren Dudderar, the university’s Best Buddies chapter president, said the program did well on campus because it advocated involvement and inclusion, providing a means for living out the TCU mission statement and giving back to the Fort Worth community.

Students from many different organizations are involved in Best Buddies, including fraternity, sorority and ROTC members among others.

The group holds monthly activities on campus like Halloween parties, Thanksgiving feasts, Christmas celebrations and Valentine’s Day parties.

It also encourages students and their buddies, who are matched according to common interests, to get together on their own time.

Best Buddies member Chase McPherson, a junior international economics major, said students and their buddies decided what activities to do on their own, keeping physical and mental restrictions in mind.

“My buddy and I like to have pizza, play video games, throw a football around in the Commons and play music together,” McPherson said. “He’s an awesome drummer.”

Several Best Buddies members said they felt they were the ones who benefitted the most from their friendships with their buddies.

“College students can see from personal experience that their buddies are people, just like them, with similar interests and hobbies,” Dudderar said. “They are more ‘abled’ than ‘disabled.’”

Member Mallory Walther, a senior early childhood education major, said Best Buddies was great for anyone who wanted to dedicate time to developing a strong friendship with another person. She said what drew her to the program was the chance to share recreational, social and leisure activities with people with special needs.

Member Lauren Pahos, a junior speech pathology major, said all it took was an open mind about those who are different.

“It feels good to know you’re helping others out,” Pahos said.

McPherson said he agreed that the program took patience and understanding, traits he said not everyone has.

For those who are interested in the things Best Buddies has to offer, the members agreed that having a buddy was a rewarding experience.

Dudderar, who has family members with IDD, said Best Buddies provided her with the opportunity to learn more about people affected by disabilities and to teach members to be a better friend, community member and future special educator.

“I wouldn’t give back a second of the time [my buddy] and I have spent together for anything,” McPherson said. “We always have a great time together.”