150+ members mark new year for Best Buddies

150+ members mark new year for Best Buddies

Peer and buddy relationships are the heart of the Best Buddies program.

Taylor Owen, Staff Reporter

Club sponsor Mari Mortensen decided to start Best Buddies seven years ago. Mortensen said, “It was seeing children with disabilities only sitting at one table in the cafeteria. There are great people at RB and I knew that if those great people talked to the students with disabilities, they could form friendships.”

Best Buddies is an international organization dedicated to promoting friendships between people with and without intellectual disabilities.

The president of Best Buddies, Bridget Brewer said, “My favorite part of Best Buddies are the friendships that form both with the people with disabilities and not.”

The club first started with 25 members. This year the club has grown to 156 members. Members can either choose to be an associate member or have a closer friendship with one of the buddies. An associate member is a person who chooses to go to the events and parties with the buddies, but do not personally have their own friend for outings.

Mortensen said, “We’ve never seen these kinds of numbers. I think it might be because other clubs closed. Because of the referendum we were worried that we would lose our second sponsor Ms. [Dawn] Soprych. Best Buddies International requires two sponsors, so if we lost Ms. Soprych, we would be in trouble. Thankfully we got to keep her for another year.”

The Riverside Brookfield Best Buddies club has had many students go on to college and become leaders. Mortensen said, “We call the special ed students buddies and the regular ed students peer buddies. All of us secretly think the peer buddies get the most out of it.”

The club has grown throughout the years. Mortensen said, “Best Buddies International always talks about our club here at RB. They call us the club on steroids because we have so many members.”

A few years ago Best Buddies won the international award for the top high school club.

The next event for the club is the matching part, where members learn who their buddies are.   These are the matches between a peer buddy and a buddy which they will have for the rest of the year. The next event is the Halloween Party at the end of October. This is where everyone dresses up and celebrates the 31st as a club.

 When asked about members of the club, Mortensen gave multiple stories of students who say that Best Buddies changed their lives.

When asked about the growth of the club and the other reasons behind it Mortensen says, “The reputation is finally coming through to the lower grades. It’s cool to be a nice person.”