Helping To Start Valuable Friendships
By Michael McCormick, state director, Best Buddies Hawaii
Best Buddies International (BBI) is a nonprofit organization founded in 1989 by Anthony Kennedy Shriver at Georgetown University. His childhood was spent watching his parents create the Special Olympics, Headstart, Vista and Job Corps. BBI is now in 50 states and 46 countries.
Our mission is to enhance the lives of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) by providing opportunities for one-to-one friendships and integrated employment.
Best Buddies Hawaii (BBHI) was started in Maui County in July 2008 to enhance and enrich the lives of Hawaii students with IDD and permit them to become integrated members of our schools and society at large. Although BBHI has advanced tremendously with its highly successful programs in Maui County, many areas of Hawaii still lack programs to help students with IDD become part of mainstream society. Our Maui programs are now expanding to Oahu. Thanks to the city of Honolulu and the James and Abigail Campbell Foundation, Best Buddies has new programs at Kaimuki High School, Kapolei Middle and High schools, Nanakuli Middle and High schools, Pearl City High School and Waipahu High School. We’re seeking additional support from foundations and individuals in order to bring our much-needed programs to more schools on Oahu.
As state director, I have seen many miracles with students who are members of Best Buddies. Students with disabilities who previously were secluded, shy and often bullied are now respected by their fellow students. The transition has been remarkable at schools participating in our programs.
Our success is achieved by educating students without disabilities about the tremendous talents and abilities of their fellow students with disabilities. We do this by matching a student with IDD with another student at their school without a disability in a one-to-one friendship. Best Buddies helps foster these friendships and organizes fun group activities at each school. Best Buddies student-members,both with and without disabilities, are given leadership training classes at Indiana University to learn how to educate other students at their schools about the abilities of people with IDD and how to prevent bullying.
For more information, visit bestbuddieshawaii.org.
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