by Sabrina Guilbeault ’18
At the annual Best Buddies Ball on Friday, April 13, the Providence College chapter of Best Buddies won the award for the Best Collegiate Program of the Year.
According to its website, Best Buddies is the world’s largest organization dedicated to “ending the social, physical, and economic isolation of the 200 million people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD).” The program is meant to empower the special abilities of people with IDD by helping them form meaningful friendships with their peers and feel valued by society.
Best Buddies of Rhode Island named the PC chapter of Best Buddies College Chapter of the Year for outstanding commitment, leadership, and unwaivering dedication to the Best Buddies mission.
“Receiving the Best Buddies College Chapter of the Year Award meant so much to us this year,” said Monica Gorton ’19, a member of the executive board and the 2018-2019 vice president of the Best Buddies. She explained that her executive board would not have had such a successful year without the help of all the members of the club. “Our peer buddies are awesome and so dedicated to their friendship with their buddies and receiving this award reflects it.”
Caitlin Whitaker ’18, president of Best Buddies at PC, said that it is a friendship organization. “It’s a very special program because in a lot of ways the mission is that a club like Best Buddies someday should not even have to exist,” she said. “The whole idea is that someday we would not need a club to form a lasting and beautiful friendship with someone with a disability.”
Whitaker went on to say that students do not always have the opportunity to interact with people with IDD, and Best Buddies is great for the community and the College. “I’ve been doing Best Buddies since my freshman year of high school, and after having such a good experience there, I knew this was something I had to join at PC,” she said.
“Best Buddies is so special because it promotes inclusion and friendship for everyone,” said Gorton. “At PC, students are paired with individuals in the community and participate in going to monthly events held on campus, contacting their buddy each week, and building friendship through one to one activities.”
The Best Buddies Ball is held annually, and is a time when the regional chapters come together and celebrate the year. All college and high school chapters are welcome, and participants dress up and are in for a night of fun, dancing, and awards.
“It was nice to have the affirmation that we’ve been doing great work, but even without the award I am so proud of what we accomplished this year,” said Whitaker. She explained that she is most proud of the service event that was held in the fall semester, where the chapter made 50 care packages for a homeless shelter.
“It was cool because we really don’t see ourselves as a service organization, but a friendship organization, so the fact that we got to do community service with our buddies was very special,” she said. Other events the club held this year included a women’s basketball game watch, a movie night, and a holiday party.
As for the individual friendship meet-ups, Whitaker said they can be just about anything. “I take my buddy to the movies because we love doing that together, but other friendships have gone to sporting events, gone to farmer’s markets, and one group this year went to a wine and paint night.”
Gorton expressed that one of her favorite memories was last year when she was swamped with work and her buddy wanted to FaceTime. Gorton decided to take the call, and after talking about what had been going on in their lives, the friends ended up spontaneously singing Disney songs while Gorton was sitting in a hallway of the business school. “I remember ending the call feeling so much better about everything that I had to and really appreciating my buddy for making me smile,” she said.
“I love our events and seeing everyone together,” said Whitaker. “It’s great to see all the buddies and interact with each other, especially since a lot of them make great connections with each other as well.” According to Whitaker, the program changed her whole college career and she is so glad to be a part of it. She hopes as many people as possible can join next year.