Best Buddies changes the lives of those with and without disabilities


UK student Claire Lawrence and her buddy, Scott. 

Kennedy Sabharwal

Best Buddies is an internationally recognized nonprofit organization that has a presence here at UK.

The organization’s goal is to create a volunteer movement that will lead to friendships, employment and development and leadership for those with disabilities.

At UK, students are paired up with people who have intellectual developmental disabilities across the state of Kentucky. Once paired, the students get together with their buddy on a regular basis and hang out as any friends would. The most important goal of this organization is to spread inclusion across the world and create lifelong friendships.

Claire Lawrence, a junior studying special education at UK who volunteers much of her time with Best Buddies, said she believes the most important aspect of this organization is how, “we provide friendship to some of the most incredible individuals.”

“Getting the opportunity to look past our differences and enjoy normal things together (like going to a UK basketball game, having a Friendsgiving, seeing a movie or just grabbing lunch) serves as a great reminder that we’re all much more alike than different,” she said. 

Best Buddies began in 1989 but was started at UK in 2009.

Just a few weeks ago, the 15th annual Best Buddies Challenge was held in California and raised $5 million for the organization as a whole. The Champion of the Year competition will be held on Nov. 16, 2018, in Louisville, Kentucky, to raise even more money.

To get involved in Best Buddies, there is an application online. Once completed, staff members will work to match volunteers with an age-appropriate buddy who has similar interests and availability. The organization is also listed on BBNvolved, so if students do have interest, you can begin your journey on that page.

There are even Promoter Programs which involve students who empower other peers to be a part of the cause, and Citizens Programs which pair adults with other adults who have disabilities.

These interactions allow for a kindling of relationships that are genuine and help those with disabilities better enjoy making new friends. This whole process allows for an improvement in the quality of life of both members with and without disabilities.

Best Buddies is comprised of eight programs that reach more than 1.2 million individuals with and without disabilities across the world.

Lawrence also mentioned a quote that embodies everything the organization stands for: ’Don’t walk behind me; I may not lead. Don’t walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend.’ -Albert Camus.

For more information about Best Buddies go to