Best Buddies gives opportunity to help out


by Jessie Ernst

Simpson’s Best Buddies program allows students to not only make a difference in the lives of others, but offers them the chance to meet people who could make a difference in theirs.

The program’s mission statement gives the specifics: “Best Buddies is the world’s largest non-profit organization dedicated to enhancing the lives of people with intellectual disabilities by providing opportunities for one-to-one friendships and integrated employment.”

The best aspect of Best Buddies is it’s offered right here on campus. Best Buddies has been up and running at Simpson College for two years and has proven to be a beneficial program.

“There’s been a big turn out this year,” junior Kelsey McKimpson, director of the program, said. “Best Buddies has grown a lot and it’s really exciting.”

The number of participants nearly doubled this year and further growth is expected.

However, Simpson isn’t the only place where Best Buddies has experienced an increase in popularity; the program has grown from its one original chapter in 1989 to over 1,200 middle school, high school and college campuses across the country.

Best Buddies retains a positive outlook for the Indianola community and for the state of Iowa. Indianola High School and many surrounding schools also participate in Best Buddies.

The international organization’s main goal is to have Best Buddies programs in all 50 states and in 50 countries by the year 2010.

Simpson is contributing to this ambitious goal and currently has 24 college buddies participating in the program. There are also 21 buddies with intellectual disabilities, who mostly participate through the Christian Community Outreach Center.

Through this process the buddies are paired up with one or two Simpson students who become their own personal college buddy.

The College Buddies are asked to call or e-mail their buddy at least once a week and to participate in two activities together every month. Many group activities are planned throughout the year for college students and their buddies.

Recently, all of the Best Buddies participants gathered at Creative U, a local pottery studio, for their Christmas party and shared in painting pottery and enjoying snacks.

Activities like the one held at Creative U help pairs to bond while allowing college students and their buddies to share time with other pairs.

Advisor Carolyn Dallinger believes seeing how everyone interacts is the real reward.

“You can see how close the pairs have become and how much they have learned from each other,” Dallinger said.

Best Buddies gives students and buddies the chance to work with people they wouldn’t otherwise work with and to create friendships that wouldn’t have existed before.

“I’ve learned a lot about myself through my relationship with my best buddy,” freshman Emily Beckmann said. “As a freshman, it’s been an awesome way to make new friends on campus.”

The main goal of the Best Buddies program is to integrate people with intellectual disabilities into the workforce and other environments.

“It’s just a really great program,” Dallinger said.