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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.


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

6 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

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.


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.

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.!


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!

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.