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Best Buddies International, Inc.

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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: International, Promotion of International Understanding

Mission: The mission of Best Buddies is to establish a global volunteer movement that creates opportunities for one-to-one friendships, integrated employment and leadership development for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Results: MILESTONES: 1989-2010 1989 – 1993 Incorporated as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, Best Buddies® becomes America’s first national, social and recreational program for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Best Buddies Fine Art is conceived, featuring masterpieces by Keith Haring, Roy Lichtenstein and Robert Rauschenberg. Best Buddies hosts the first unified Leadership Conference, training both college student leaders and people with intellectual disabilities, by providing intensive training in public speaking, management, public relations, team building, problem solving and leadership skills. Best Buddies launches Best Buddies Citizens with the goal of pairing adults with intellectual disabilities with their non-disabled working peers. 1994 – 1998 Best Buddies launches Best Buddies Jobs, a supported employment program, targeting high-paying, white-collar jobs for people with intellectual disabilities in Florida, California, and Massachusetts. Best Buddies establishes Best Buddies High Schools, with the goal of pairing special education students in one-to-one friendships with high school volunteers. Best Buddies Middle Schools’ pilot program is launched, reaching out to an even younger age group with the hope that inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities will have a lasting effect on societal norms for the next generation. 1999 – 2006 e-Buddies® is launched as a cutting-edge online friendship program. Maria Shriver writes a landmark book about friendships with people with intellectual disabilities titled, "What’s Wrong With Timmy?" with proceeds benefiting Best Buddies. Best Buddies launches most successful fundraising event in its history, the nationally televised inaugural Best Buddies Challenge: Hearst Castle, chaired by California First Lady Maria Shriver, a 100-mile bike ride along the Pacific Coast Highway. For the first time, Best Buddies has programs in all 50 of the United States and on six continents. 2007 – 2010 Best Buddies International and German luxury car manufacturer Audi launch five-year, international partnership. Best Buddies celebrates 20 years of friendships and jobs. In honor of its 20th anniversary, Best Buddies updates it mission statement to: To establish a global volunteer movement that creates opportunities for one-to-one friendships, integrated employment and leadership development for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). For the first time, Best Buddies has programs in 46 countries around the world. Best Buddies Ambassadors becomes Best Buddies seventh formal program, promoting leadership and self-advocacy among people with IDD.

Target demographics: Best Buddies serves people with and without IDD, though our primary beneficiaries are people with IDD. Participants include middle and high school students, college students, and community members with and without IDD. According to the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (formerly AAMR), an IDD is a state of functioning that begins before age 18 and is characterized by significant limitations in both intelligence and adaptive skills, which are those skills necessary for functioning in everyday life. We primarily serve children with mild to moderate cognitive difficulties, Down’s syndrome, Traumatic Brain Injury, Fragile X Syndrome, and autism spectrum disorder.

Programs:

Best Buddies Colleges matches adults with intellectual disabilities with college students and creates one-to-one friendships between them.  In the past, individuals with intellectual disabilities have not had the opportunity to have friends outside of their own, often isolated, environment.

Community Stories

20 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

General Member of the Public

Rating: 1

Am Disabled I Never Made Any Friends Thur the Best buddies Program Buddy pairs Did Not Work out No Friendship Was Fromed person they Paired me With Mistreated Me the employees at Best Buddies International And best buddies Tennessee were very rude to me I don't recommend you join one of their chapters I regret that I ever joined this program this program has been nothing but a headache to me I join thinking that I was going to make friends but did not make any friends at all they are most certainly not what they claim to be don't let their flashy advertisement fool you

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

December Tuesday 01, 2015 - DECEMBER Tuesday 29, 2016
ALL HAPPY HOLIDAYS ‪#‎GIVINGTUESDAY‬ EVERYDAY WITH BEST BUDDIES MARYLAND! I LOVE YOU ‪#‎BBMD20‬ ‪#‎BB5K‬
$500.000
YOUR PAL
MICHAEL ARTHUR TAYLOR JR.,

Review from #MyGivingStory

1 Liam O.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have been volunteering with Best Buddies for a decade now and I will never stop because I find the mission of Best Buddies so powerful and empowering. Best Buddies does not ask volunteers to be just mentors, tutors, or anything like that; instead, volunteers are asked to be friends. The great thing about friendship is the give-and-take nature of it. I have received much more from my experience with Best Buddies and from my buddies than I ever expected. If you choose to get involved with Best Buddies, you'll never regret it and you might never be able to stop.

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have had an E-buddy for almost 8 years now, and have developed a beautiful friendship with a woman I would not have otherwise met. Best Buddies is an organization that strives to build and cultivate love and friendships…what more could we want out of life? I love being a part of such a positive team, and highly recommend getting involved in this organization.

1 Holly36

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

Best Buddies was my first job out if college in 1994 and the experience, opportunities and friendships that it created for me had shaped the way I feel as a professional in the world. It also directed me toward getting my graduate degree in nonprofit management. Being there for what was the beginning of this tremendous organization is a source of pride that I will always carry with me. The mission is simple and beautiful and the work that has been accomplished is inspirational. I will always love Best Buddies and feel connected to it in a special way.
Holly Snyder Goshin

Board Member

Rating: 5

I have seen Best Buddies change peoples' lives in big way. I attended Leadership Conference in 2013 and heard directly from individuals with intellectual disabilities ("Buddies") that Best Buddies changed their lives.

One young man, a Buddy, told me that because of the Best Buddies jobs program he has a job and he has been performing for years at that job and he loves it. He also said with Pride the he is Good at it. He is grateful for that job and the purpose it has given him and that is why he was studying to be an ambassador so he can tell other people his story. By telling his story he hoped other people could get jobs also. When he understood that I was a volunteer, he thanked me. That changed my life.

7

Board Member

Rating: 1

Best Buddies, while in theory and some would argue practice is a good organization is NOT what you think it is. Think twice or maybe three or four times before giving ANY money to this organization or participating it the elaborate parties, bike rides etc. There are many more, well-deserving LOCAL organizations out there. Having been involved and watching the organization from a national standpoint I am deeply disappointed in the way they USE people with disabilities to get to fund six figure salaries in the corporate office. NOT ONE DIME of any money raised by the states stays in the state. It is all funneled to corporate for salaries, benefits etc. Individual chapters must raise their OWN money locally to conduct the mission of the organization at the local level. Many chapters have little to no support by the so-called program managers and the state director's main job is to raise more money for national. The chapters like I said in essence can be great but in practice the organization in my opinion is a scam that preys on the innocent. Don't let them try to tell you that the money goes back to the states, it doesn't except in salaries etc. It rarely if ever benefits a person with a disability directly. It pays the salary for the program manager to 'help' the chapters form friendships with people with disabilities. Noble effort but so much more could be done. Yes they 'may' help students get to Leadership conference but they first force them to create a fundraising page for the organization and get donations from friends and family members. Many students get more than they need to go to LC and raise extra money (in the name of disability support). Comparatively very few students with disabilities benefit from LC. Again, innocent students being duped into thinking their money is benefitting the charitable purpose. Chapters have to conduct fundraisers to pay DUES to national to fund their so-called leadership conference in Indianapolis every year. What is so sad to me is that the students involved love the organization but anyone on the inside can see that it is a self-serving organization that USES the students and buddies to line their own pockets. Find a local organization where the money stays local and give give give to them. Or if you love the organization at the local level DEMAND that your state office be independent of national and be able to keep the money local to fund the chapters and state activities. Always do your research. I am going local to serve and will NEVER serve on the board of a national organization and especially not give a dime ever to Best Buddies again. I think if you look closely too, you will find that the turnover in state directors is evident that something is amiss in this organization. Once really good people find out how it is operated and start to ask questions they are suddenly gone. The whole thing is really disgusting.

6

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 1

Wow, a close look at the financials is quite interesting. The organization spends an enormous amount of money on events, galas, etc...; but raises little money. A total of $ 312K was spent in 2010 on fundraising fees, and over $ 1.8M on fundraising expenses! That means their parties are awesome. The CEO makes nearly 300K a year, plus the financials note that they pay the CEO's annual membership at the Fisher Island Club. What's that you ask? Well according the Fisher Island Club website, it is the "Tropical Island Oasis with Private Beach, Golf, Tennis, Spa & Marina." It goes on to state that, "If you are looking for a world of exceptional luxury and pleasures, look no further. This exclusive private island paradise offers you world-class resort amenities including a seaside golf course, Mediterranean inspired tennis club, luxury spa, stunning beach club and marina along side luxury hotel accommodations and unrivaled service. Fisher Island Club is where only the most extravagant of lives come to vacation, play and live." Wait, there is more. The biggest expenses for Best Buddies in 2010 were the American Express at $ 588,511.00 and over $ 300K for their swanky corporate headquarters in downtown Miami. Hey, you can't the CEO to leave the private island and go to some mediocre office in Miami, do you? No, that wouldn't do at all. the Miami Tower "is the city's premier business address, the 47-story Miami Tower is also know for a world-class array of upscale amenities and personalized tenant services." I am glad to see everyone is going "first class." The most staggering line item is that the organization raised over $ 4.3M in 2010; but incurred direct expenses of $ 6.9M!!!! That is a loss of over $ 2.6M!!!!

Board Member

Rating: 5

I have been involved with Best Buddies for 7 years, and now I am employeed in the Company. I truly believe that we are capable of having a socially inclusive world, but this would not happen without Best Buddies and the overwhelming support of the community, our participants, and our volunteers. I am a strong believer in the Best Buddies mission. Also, as a sister of a brother with Autism it is so important for individuals to have a place to turn to for friendship, an employment. My hope is that one day Best Buddies will work itself out of buisness and we will live in a totally inclusive society. This is a fabulous organization.

Board Member

Rating: 5

I support Best Buddies because I truly believe in the importance of friendship - that basic human need to be included, loved, appreciated, and respected. Best Buddies reinforces that people with intellectual disabilities should be viewed as equals, as co-workers and as friends. Every day my friends help me to enjoy life to it's fullest and Best Buddies creates environments and changes attitudes so that children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities can experience the same.!

Jennifer234567891011121314

Board Member

Rating: 5

My daughter inspired me to join best buddies, by befriending a class mate with IDD. She saw her friend as a classmate and peer, something that doesn't happen often enough. Best Buddies mission is to promote that kind of social inclusion and I'm regularly and consistently moved by the magic that happens through Best Buddies. The joy, zest for life, and real friendship on display at every Best Buddies event is enough to make me a devoted supporter for life!

Volunteer

Rating: 5

My name is Ikea Glover. I'm 22 years old and I'm from wilmington, delaware. I'm disabled and my family is disabled also.

1 Alyssa Lynn W.

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

This is a great program to promote friendship and social inclusion to those with an Intellectual Disability.

Nick F.

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

My friend got me addicted to this program. I am waiting to be paired with a buddy. I am hoping to find one that can come to my office and do little tasks for us. I think it would be great to have a personal with an intellectual disability to work in an accounting firm downtown Chicago! I think it would be great for heir self esteem. I would also like to have a buddy to take to ballgames and have friend. Best Buddy is social inclusion and that is what I am hoping to achieve!

Board Member

Rating: 5

Best Buddies is a fantastic organization. The growth of the friendship, jobs and e-buddies programs over the last 20 years is conclusive evidence of the effectiveness of the programs in supporting people with disabilities. The programs touch hundreds of thousands of lives each year. And there are literally hundreds of anecdotes about people with disabilities who found friendship and happiness and fulfillment for the first time due to Best Buddies. In addition, Best Buddies is helping to knock out the stereotype of "retarded" people. We are all humans, all the same. A person with a disability has the same senses and sensitivities as nondisabled people. Through Best Buddies, the labels and sterotypes can come to an end.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

The first organization I looked for at NYU's club fair was Best Buddies. Last year, as a freshman at a new school, I wanted to be a part of something fun, exciting, fulfilling and most of all, familiar. I had been a part of the Best Buddies International organization since my freshman year of high school and became the Chapter President my senior year. Although as a Chapter President I held many leadership responsibilities, the work that I put into building of our chapter never felt like work at all; I had the incredible support of Gerri Caruncho, the chapter advisor; Catherine Houlihan, the program manager; and my members who were always willing to volunteer extra time and share responsibilities. In Best Buddies, it is the culminated efforts of an entire chapter that determines its success of becoming an extended family. The four years that I had spent at Gulliver Preparatory School in Miami, Florida were absolutely changed by my experiences in Best Buddies. Greater than the great love and dedication we worked to create in our chapter was the sense of pride, accomplishment and fulfillment of our chapter that Best Buddies has given us in return. More than I could ever teach my Buddy, Anya, is what she has taught me in return - to be a better person. After graduating high school I can only hope to share what my Anya has taught me with others in NYU Best Buddies and beyond: acceptance, respect, loyalty, trust and understanding - the constitutes of true, unconditional friendship. Of the many strengths of Best Buddies is that it is an organization that works for the future. It's dynamic encourages members and Buddies to grow as the organization grows, rather than just be a simple volunteer. With Best Buddies and what I have learned from it, I continue to grow as a person with the experiences I have with my new Buddy, Marieanne. Just last week we made princess crowns for her costume for the Halloween Best Buddies party. I was cutting out the gemstone shapes and the crown templates extremely carefully when Marieanne reminded me that she would love her crown no matter how it looked because I had helped her make it. With Best Buddies, I hope more people will realize that it doesn't matter if Marieanne doesn't know how to use scissors, she knows so much more that is truly valuable. She reminds me that perfection isn't what is important, but rather, the imperfections that make life special - A true testament to the Best Buddies mission.

Ashley T.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I a m currently the chapter president of the University of Miami chapter of Best Buddies and I must say, all of our members enjoy being part of this grand organization! It is important for all of us that our buddies are happy with their friendships and are being contacted and treated as a true friend. We are required to send in Friendship Updates and describe the different activities we did throughout the month with our buddies. At UM, these updates are read thoroughly and problems are addressed immediately. The staff at Headquarters is alos a very important part of this organization- they are the base and the go-to for everything that has to do with Best Buddies. All staff members are reliable- they will help you with anything you need! Without them, Best Buddies chapters would not function. And as for my own buddy pair, I have been matched with my buddy for over a year now and I must say that our relationship has grown wonderfully, not just into a friendship, but into a sisterly-bond. We care for each other and although it feels great to know that in some way, i am making an impact in the life of another, it is indescribable to mention the many ways my own life has been impacted and the amazing feelings I get when I am around my buddy. It is a truly life-altering experience, always for the better.

Bella Maria D.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I joined Best Buddies "email buddies" at first. That is how I wanted to get started and provide social inclusion with someone with an intellectual disability to let them know someone cared and was willing to be their friend. I wanted my 16 year old daughter (at the time) to join as an email buddy. She was skeptical at first. She told me she did not know how to interact and was scared. I told her all she needed to was be a friend. She agreed and I told her I would help her get started. I had know idea she was finally paired with an email buddy and my daughter wrote her buddy on her own. They have so many things in common. I think that makes email buddies special because it does take a while to get paired. I think they send emails everyday day now. My daughter has actually became a great friend to her email buddy. Sometimes her e-buddy will vent with frustration and my daughter always tries to cheer her e-buddy up. She also stresses that her e-buddy may have an intellectual disability that main streamed kids also get picked on too. They talk a lot about music, shopping, and movies. My daughter has never met her her e-buddy but they are like best friends. My college age daughter joined to become an email buddy. She was recently paired up and she really enjoys talking to this girl. My daughter is Bipolar and Dyslexic and has really helped her e-buddy overcome obstacles. Since they are older they are planning on meeting each other one day. I can not say enough for this program. I am actually in the process now of getting paired with an actual buddy from my area to be a friend too and take to the movies and shopping. In the meantime, we have two intellectually disabled 19 and 20 year old boys at my church and I wanted to approach the mother but not offend her. After mass one morning I approached her. I had to explain how in detail the program works. She listened to me. I gave her the email address to Best Buddies International and she signed her boys up for e-buddies. She then looked into the other programs to see what else best buddies has to offer her sons. She called me the next day and talked more. Her one son is in a group home apartments nearby. She gave the administrator information and the website. The administrator called me back and was interested to have me to meet the residents and sign them up with e-buddies and see if I can get them paired with a one on one buddy or jobs. My first step was signing them all up to be paired with an e-buddy. My husband works near this group home and is in management and is willing to give a couple of the residents jobs. He has also contacted Indiana and Chicago Chapters to get more information for jobs. He has talked to neighboring businesses about hiring some of the intellectually disabled individuals. This has turned into a family affair project that we all love socially included these individuals. Now my mother has signed up for an e-buddy and is waiting to get match! Best Buddies all around is a great program that promotes social inclusion for those with intellectual disabilities.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Best Buddies has truly brought something extra special to my life. I am currently a Visual Communication Senior attending Herron School of Art & Design located directly downtown Indianapolis, Indiana. This past semester, spring semester of Junior year, my creative team and I had both the privilege and opportunity to work with Best Buddies Indiana. This semester-long project ended with the delivery of a creative communications campaign that would ultimately better the organization. "Buddy Up", the title of the campaign, serves to gain awareness and spur the interest in getting more people involved within the organization. Many teammates of my group decided to jump in the organization ourselves to gain a real sense of what the organization was all about - given that most of us were completely new to the organization. I soon gained a Buddy, a person with a disability, but I like to label him as a life-long friend. Matt and I talk daily through either the phone (both talk and text) and via Facebook. Matt is considered high-functioning, yet doesn't technically have a label, although he's 27, but has a reading level of a third-grader. He truly knows how to make me smile and laugh in any given situation - for that, I'm thankful. "Buddy Up" just recently launched statewide in 72 high schools and colleges this past fall. It has been an amazing ride with Best Buddies and I know for a doubt it will continue. The stories my team and I have been receiving from area chapters has been absolutely rewarding knowing that not only it's working in gaining interest, but they're having a blast carrying it out. Best Buddies has taught me a great deal of character and has opened up my mind into not being so judgmental. I've learned to look past people's disabilities while in return embracing their abilities.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

i volunteered to help autistic students at my high school. i fell in love with it and cannot stop going there everyday. it really made a difference for me.