View the Foundation’s 2019 Summary of Grants – available here!
Best Buddies is the world’s largest organization dedicated to ending the social, physical and economic isolation of 200 million people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
For individuals within this community, Best Buddies serves as a lifeline to creating life-long friendships, securing successful jobs, living independently and feeling valued and respected by society.
Best Buddies envisions a world where people with IDD are so successfully integrated into schools, workplaces and communities that its current efforts and services will be unnecessary.
Best Buddies Friendship programs build one-to-one friendships between people with and without intellectual and developmental disabilities, offering social interactions while improving the quality of life and level of inclusion for a population that is often isolated and excluded.
Through their participation, people with IDD form meaningful connections with their peers, gain self-confidence and self-esteem, and share interests, experiences and activities that many other individuals enjoy.
Best Buddies Middle School, High School and College creates an inclusive school environment for students with IDD during times of social and emotional development. The programs focus on breaking through social barriers and providing the opportunity for people with IDD to be involved in their local campus and community life.
Best Buddies Citizens focuses on life after school, and supports the development of friendships between adults with and without IDD in corporate and civic communities. Many people with IDD have limited opportunities for social interactions after they leave the school environment. This program helps people with IDD become part of a mainstream society and creates an inclusive and diverse community for all.
e-Buddies provides a safe place online to develop one-to-one friendships between people with and without IDD. By joining e-Buddies, participants become more comfortable using technology to communicate with friends, gain computer literacy skills, and are better equipped to socialize online in the future.
Learn more about the friendship program here.
Bryan (Buddy) and Will (Peer Buddy) first met on September 26, 2010.
“It was Sunday, September 26, 2010, and I met Bryan as we both waited in line for Jet’s Pizza at the Best Buddies Vanderbilt Match Party,” said Will. “Bryan was also new to Best Buddies, and he stood in line chatting with his parents while I stood alone in silence. Though many people would have ignored my presence, Bryan did the opposite – he turned to me directly and enthusiastically exclaimed ‘Hey! My name is Bryan! What’s your name?’ Bryan gave me a huge hug before I even had the chance to respond. Less than five minutes later, the two of us were shredding air guitar solos on the dance floor, and at the end of the event, we officially became each other’s very first Best Buddy and remain that to this day.”
Bryan and Will are the personification of the Best Buddies mission at work. Their friendship knows no bounds and they have so much fun together. Everywhere they go, they are the life of the party.
“We’re kind of the same dude,” said Will. Their friends say they are the goofiest guys in the room – always cracking jokes, dancing, and having the time of their lives together.
The two have shared so much together, like Spring Break trips, holidays, road trips to visit Will’s family in St. Louis, field passes to the Tennessee Titans Game, and most notably, a VIP trip to the 2013 Best Buddies Challenge: Hyannis Port, where they met New England Patriots QB and Best Buddies Celebrity Ambassador Tom Brady, and had the opportunity to share their story about friendship with Challenge participants and guests.
“A lot of people ask why I got involved in Best Buddies, if I have a relative or family member with an intellectual disability,” said Will. “And I always tell them, ‘I have a brother with Down syndrome, I just only found that out when I joined Best Buddies.’”
Katie (Buddy) and Tiffany (Peer Buddy) were matched in 2014 when the Best Buddies Citizen Program started in Indiana.
“Can you imagine life without a friend?” asked Katie. “I can, because Best Buddies was not available in Indiana when I was in school. I had a supportive family but I missed having someone in school to say ‘hi’ to in the halls, to sit with at lunch, to talk to about my day, and to make plans with for social activities.”
“My life changed when I experienced the gift of having someone, my own age, to talk to and to call my friend,” said Katie. “With a best buddy you can enjoy life and have fun eating out, going bowling, going to the movies, to athletic games, and even having the amazing experience to be a bridesmaid in your buddy’s wedding.”
“In 2014, the Citizens program came to Indiana and I was matched with an ‘adult’ buddy, who is outstanding,” said Katie. “Tiffany is more than I could ever have imagined and she should be the ‘role model’ for all Citizens Buddies. Tiffany is showing me how to rise to meet every opportunity and to always reach for the stars. She takes time to call me to talk about our week, to come up with fun ideas for getting together, and we set a date for a ‘girls weekend and sleep over’, which is a first in my life. WOW! I really do have a friend.”
“Katie is my family that came about through friendship,” said Tiffany. “She inspires me to only ever see the good in others. She also inspires me to let go of fears.”
“I’ll never forget the words [Katie] said at our sleepover to get the girls to sing karaoke. ‘If I can speak in front of 11,000 people then you can sing with me!’ And they did it without hesitation,” Tiffany said. “Katie is my rock, my support, my go – getter. I’ve never been so inspired by another person.”
“I joined Best Buddies to be a friend and in doing so I gained a sister,” said Tiffany. “A dear friend once summed up how the world should work in one phrase, ‘because nice matters’. Katie personifies this saying. To Katie, ‘nice matters’, and that is the way she lives her life.”
The Rees-Jones Foundation is a proud supporter of Best Buddies.