by Dahlia Liwsze
Everybody needs friendship,
but Best Buddies are special.
The Best Buddies program sets up a relationship between a college or university
student and an adult with an intellectual disability. Michael Todary,
a third-year engineering student and the campus co-ordinator of Best Buddies
Concordia, points out that such a friendship does not develop naturally.
Its different from hospital volunteer work, because you really
get into their life, he explained. Youre a friend to
someone who really needs it.
Kennedy Shriver, who founded Best Buddies International in the United
States in 1983, would be proud of the success of his brainchild. Best
Buddies established its first Canadian chapter in 1993, and Best Buddies
Canada was incorporated as a registered national charity in 1995.
The number of volunteers is growing. Laura Bailey, the volunteer recruitment
co-ordinator at Best Buddies Canada, says there are approximately 1,500
volunteers nationally, of whom 220 are in Quebec.
Best Buddies Concordia, now two years old, will have 12 match-ups this
year. Pairs are created on the basis of similar interests, and stay together
for a year. The adults with intellectual disabilities are from the Miriam
Home, which has been offering services for children and adults with intellectual
disabilities in Montreal since 1960.
The volunteer work is flexible, consisting of a weekly phone call and
two monthly outings. Four times a year, all the buddy pairs get together
for subsidized group outings. For security reasons, volunteers undergo
screening before theyre accepted, in the form of two reference forms
and a police check.
himself began as a volunteer last year, and he and his buddy, who also
loved sports, would go to watch Concordia games. He is now matched up
with 52-year-old Morty Lighter, who loves bowling.
Were buddies because we both like sports. [Morty] actually
likes hockey as well, he said. I enjoy taking time off school
to spend time with him. Its relaxing for me as well.
Lighter, who has been involved with Best Buddies for seven years and part
of a bowling league for 35 years, shares Todarys sentiments.
Its a better life with the buddies because they come to take
us out to restaurants and games, and we go to movies, he said. Its
fun all around.
is Lighters first year as buddy advocate, which he is enjoying.
Todary explained that a buddy advocate is a functional person with an
intellectual disability who helps the campus co-ordinator by representing
the intellectually disabled.
Also referred to as a developmental disability, an intellectual disability
is a term used to describe any condition that includes a lifelong
impairment to a persons ability to learn and/or adapt to their environment.
People with intellectual disabilities do not necessarily have a recognizable
condition like autism or Down syndrome, and intellectual disabilities
may not be accompanied by a physical disability.
show that while approximately 900,000 Canadians have intellectual disabilities,
three out of every 100 children are born with some degree of intellectual
disability. Eighty per cent of individuals with an intellectual disability
live with their families.
The sad truth is that difference often has stigma attached to it. Wanting
to lessen this stigma, Best Buddies has a message for society.
Every time you go out with someone with an intellectual disability,
people realize that youre friends, Todary said. People
see they deserve a chance. It spreads really quickly.
Todary can be reached at 298-1652 or firstname.lastname@example.org
The Web site for Best Buddies Canada is www.bestbuddies.ca.