Students with a Purpose: Bloomsburg Best Buddies Club

Andrea Stine wakes up at 10 a.m. on Sunday, Nov. 16, hopeful that today, everyone will be able to enjoy a Thanksgiving dinner. The party is for members of the Best Buddies Club, a non-profit organization that benefits individuals with intellectual disabilities. Stine serves as the vice president of this organization, and has been involved for three years.

“The goal of Best Buddies is to form friendships that may never have been made,” Stine said. “The friendship they are providing is one that means the world to someone, and it is not to be taken for granted. This can be more than just a couple years of a college club, this club changes the lives of everybody involved, the buddy and the college buddy.”

The buddies were given the opportunity to enjoy a real Thanksgiving Day dinner. Many of the buddies do not get the chance to eat a homemade family style dinner. Due to fund-raising and money allotted from the University, the buddies got to have their own holiday.

“The hardest part of Best Buddies is when a buddy pair does not work out,” Stine said. “It’s sad because some students don’t realize how much they mean to their buddy, and when it doesn’t work out it’s really heartbreaking for that buddy.”

The Best Buddies Chapter at Bloomsburg University has reached its peak of 140 members this year. As well as students who are paired up with buddies in the community, there are also a large number of members who could not be paired with buddies, due to an exceeding number of college students wanting to participate. These members are associate members, who help out on fund-raising and activities committees.

After buying 15 turkeys from the local supermarket, Jaclyn Brown, president of Best Buddies, fears that there may not be enough food for the 120 people expected to turnout at the party today. Each college buddy prepared a side dish for this event, some of which they cooked or baked with their buddy. As well as having a Thanksgiving style dinner, each buddy brought a can to support the local Bloomsburg Food Bank.

“Personally, my goal this year is bridge the gap of disabilities and abilities,” Brown said. “I find too often people with disabilities are looked at different, when in fact they are a lot more like those without disabilities then they realize.  They are treated dismally because of others perceptions of them.  But I truly believe their unique characteristics and natural good nature enhances.”

Both Stine and Brown are special education majors who hope to become special education/life skills teachers when they graduate Bloomsburg University. Stine also has a major in deaf education, and Brown is pursing elementary education. The girls got involved in Best Buddies at the same time while they were freshmen, both hearing about the club from professors at the University.

“Each month, I’d like to think that we serve as an equalizing organization,” Brown said. “We bring people who don’t normally get out of their home or apartment much because of various disabilities, stereotypes made by others, and lack of opportunities, into an environment free for them to grow, interact, and befriend others.”

“I hope that someday all of the college buddies realize that what they are doing now is giving someone the best gift you could ever give,” Brown said.