Organization: Best Buddies
Volunteer Service: Since 2013
What is Best Buddies? Best Buddies’ is a nonprofit organization with a mission to create connections and provide opportunities for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Its programs and services focus on creating one-to-one friendships, integrated employment opportunities, leadership development and inclusive living for school-aged children as well as adults.
How did you get involved with this organization? A former colleague served on the board and had organized a team to participate in the Best Buddies annual walk about six years ago. Since then, my partner, Marc, and I have been going to their walks and luncheon events each year.
In what ways do you volunteer with this organization today? In addition to our event participation, about four years ago we were matched with Charles, an older gentleman with disabilities, through Best Buddies’ Citizen Program for adults. We talk on the phone and hang out in-person frequently, doing things he might not get to do otherwise. Over the years, our relationship has grown to where we consider him part of our family. We invite him over for dinner at our house, run errands together and visit our cabin on the weekends.
What is the most rewarding part of volunteering with Best Buddies? I think what we get in return for volunteering—it’s so much more than we put into it. Charles has opened our eyes and allowed us to see what is really important in life. He’s such a gentleman and one of the most pleasant, happy-go-lucky people I know. He doesn’t let his disabilities get in the way and enjoys having someone to hang out with. We feel lucky to have him in our lives.
Can you share a memorable experience? Charles is really interested in trains and cars and enjoys just going for a ride or visiting places where he can see and experience them. So, one time, we took him on a road trip to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Gettysburg and the Toledo Zoo. The whole time he was looking out the window as our co-pilot and enjoying the trip. We had a great time together, seeing a few new sites.
Do you have any advice for others looking to volunteer? I would say to anyone, whether you are looking to volunteer with Best Buddies or a similar program, that it doesn’t require a lot of your time. These individuals are just looking for people to connect with as friends. It doesn’t mean you have to get together every weekend or meet in-person. Sometimes you just talk on the phone and listen to their day, or hear their challenges and provide advice. It’s a great way to make a dramatic impact in someone else’s life. I think you will find that you get so much more out of it than you expect.