Best Buddies, an international non-profit group that works with adults who have intellectual and developmental disabilities, has an up-and-coming volunteer chapter on the University of Rhode Island’s campus.
Over the past three years of being involved with URI’s Best Buddies, Maddie Cooprider, the secretary for Best Buddies, has seen the organization grow in size. Cooprider is excited for the club’s future, believing that it has great potential to impact an abundance of people.
As a part of Best Buddies, Cooprider explained that students who are interested in joining the club can become as involved as they choose to be.
Once you join the club, the executive members match you up with a specific buddy, based on an interview process which determines who the best candidate would be and who has similar interests to you.
“You call them once a week, meet with them outside of events once a month and go to an event once a month,” Cooprider said. “It’s super low commitment anyways but if you don’t want to be with someone one-on-one then you can step back and volunteer with another person as well.”
Best Buddies hosts a number of events throughout the academic year for their buddies. These range from: bingo and karaoke nights; fashion and talent shows; end-of-the-year ball; bowling; and holiday-themed events.
“We get them outside of their group homes once a month, we host events for them and we form one-on-one friendships with college buddies on campus,” Cooprider said. “It gives you a little bit of a purpose because these people at one point didn’t know who you were and now when I go see my buddy at his basketball games, he and all the other buddies know who I am and all say hi to me when I’m around.”
Cooprider said that many of the buddies live in group homes and the only people they see on a normal day are their doctors. Therefore, the buddies often do not have a lot of people to talk to, which makes student volunteers even more special for them.
“It’s really awesome because I did not know anyone coming up here and now I have all this whole range of people, not just students, but a whole community of people who live in group homes and who look up to me and like hanging out,” Cooprider said. “It definitely makes their day when we come because it’s like we’re their best friend and we get to go hang out, get coffee, go shopping or just have fun.”
Cooprider also said that being a part of Best Buddies has changed her perspective on putting herself in other people’s shoes.
“It makes you think a lot about problems that other people have that you would never think about, it makes you really understanding,” Cooprider said.
Junior Annika Fisher has also been a part of Best Buddies for the past three years of her college career. Fisher cited the club as providing her with some of her best and most impactful experiences at URI.
“Joining Best Buddies was without a doubt one of the best decisions I could have made freshman year,” Fisher said. “Not only is it a great way to be involved on campus and the community, it has surrounded me with a wonderful group of people and connected me with my buddy, who has become one of my best friends and one of the most important people in my life.”