Best Buddies has come to NJ and is eagerly looking for volunteers to make a difference. Making friends as you get older becomes harder and harder, especially for those with adult intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). The Best Buddies Citizens program supports the development of one-to-one friendships between adults with and without IDD in corporate and civic communities. This need is especially pressing in Northern NJ. According to Deputy Director Sean Heaney: “Currently Hudson County and Essex County represent the areas with the greatest need for participants in our adult, one-to-one friendship program (called Citizens).” There are currently over 30 participants waiting to be matched up with a friend. Read on to learn more about Best Buddies and how you can get involved.
In our increasingly isolated, electronic world, everyone needs a friend. Since experiencing COVID lockdowns and quarantines, people better understand the toll which isolation can take on our well-being. This is the very problem Best Buddies seeks to mitigate.
Best Buddies pairs adults with and without IDD to help alleviate the difficulties of unwanted loneliness. Adults who participate in this program can look forward to weekly communication with their buddy and make a coordinated effort to see their buddy once a month.
How Do the Programs Work?
There are three programs that target different ways to integrate Buddies within civic or corporate communities.
Best Buddies Friendship Program
This program pairs individuals with IDD with peers without disabilities who share similar interests and hobbies. Once matched, buddies spend time together engaging in activities they both enjoy, such as going to the movies, attending sporting events, or just hanging out and spending time together.
Best Buddies Jobs Program
This program helps individuals with IDD obtain and maintain employment by providing job coaching and support. The Jobs Program helps individuals with IDD secure meaningful employment that matches their skills and interests and offers ongoing support to both the participant and employer to ensure their success on the job.
Best Buddies Leadership Development Program
This program provides training and opportunities for individuals with IDD to develop leadership skills, build self-confidence, and become advocates for themselves and their peers.
How to Get Involved
In order to get involved, all you need to do is contact Best Buddies New Jersey Deputy Director of Communications and Stewardship, Sean Heaney, at SeanHeaney@BestBuddies.org.
Best Buddies is looking for volunteers with a passion for inclusivity, both in the community and in the workplace. No experience with the disability community is needed to join Best Buddies.
Bret Fleming: Best Buddies Global Ambassador From NJ
Best Buddies has a “Global Ambassador from New Jersey” named Bret Fleming who explains how meaningful becoming involved with the organization has been for him: “Best Buddies helps me be my own person without getting judged because I have a disability. It has also helped me to help others with and without disabilities.”
About Best Buddies: NJ + Around the World
Best Buddies only arrived in NJ on June 26th, 2018, but has been changing lives throughout the United States since it was founded in 1989 by Anthony K. Shriver. Shriver established the organization with the goal of enhancing the lives of people with IDD by providing opportunities for one-to-one friendships, integrated employment, and leadership development. The organization began with one chapter at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., and has since grown to have a presence in all 50 states of the USA and 47 countries and territories worldwide. Since its NJ inception in 2018, Best Buddies already has over 20 Friendship Chapters with over 1,000 participants across 12 counties.
See More: Disability Resources in New Jersey
Upcoming Best Buddies Events
Best Buddies also has two upcoming events in April. The nearest event to Hudson County is the North Jersey Friendship Walk, held on Sunday, April 23th, 2023 at Bergen County College — 400 Paramus Rd, Paramus. The following weekend, the Princeton Friendship Walk will take place on Saturday, April 29th, 2023 at The College of New Jersey — 2000 Pennington Rd, Ewing Township.