Eastern Michigan University’s Best Buddies program, in partnership with the VISION Volunteer Center, hosted its 16th Best Buddies Annual Outer Space Ball on Saturday evening in the Student Center Ballroom.
Best Buddies is an international non-profit organization that provides quality one-to-one friendships, leadership and job opportunities for people in the community with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
The Student Center Ballroom was decorated with multi-colored stars, gold and metallic rocks and alien-shaped balloons. Games and activities included coloring and connect the dots activity sheets, an arts and crafts station, a photography station, a space walk (similar to a cupcake walk or musical chairs) and a bean-bag toss.
EMU senior and event coordinator Sarah Mueller is a secondary special education major with a concentration in cognitive impairment. She was inspired to be a part of the Best Buddies program for a special, personal reason.
“I have a younger sister named Rachel, 17, and she has Down syndrome,” Mueller said. “She inspired me to be a part of this program because I know how much she desires to be accepted and to have friends, and if I could do that for somebody else then that would be great.”
Mueller encouraged others to get involved in the program.
“We strive for social inclusion, so even if you’re not a part of the program, be friends with someone with a disability,” Mueller said. “Take the time to get to know someone with a disability because they are just like you and I.”
Anthony Shriver, chairman and son of Eunice Kennedy Shriver, founded Best Buddies in 1989. Shriver’s mission was to foster one-to-one friendships between people with and without disabilities. Today, Best Buddies is active in each of the 50 states and operates accredited international programs in 50 countries.
In addition, Best Buddies has eight formal programs: Best Buddies Middle Schools, High Schools, Colleges, Citizens, e-Buddies, Jobs, Ambassadors and Promoters, that positively impact almost 700,000 individuals with and without disabilities worldwide.
“It’s a nice experience,” said Deon Chaney, a 25-year-old individual with special needs.
EMU sophomore Megan Hoorn, a speech pathologist major and president of EMU College Buddies, said, “I also have a sister with Down syndrome. She is 7 years old and her name is Brenna. She is also my inspiration for having joined this organization in the first place, because I love spending time with her and I would hope that when she is older she would like to be a part of this program as well.”
Hoorn continued with a piece of advice for interested students.
“Just jump in and let yourself to be uncomfortable for a little bit—the benefit comes the first day,” she said.
Stay tuned for next year’s Best Buddies Ball; it is a wonderful opportunity to get to know EMU Best Buddies members as well as the buddies the College Buddies are paired with.
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