UHart's Best Buddies Club Spreads Message of Friendship, Hope, and Inclusion
“Acceptance is sometimes hard to find,” says Elizabeth Fuqua ‘22, a junior elementary special education major at the University of Hartford. “And that’s why Best Buddies is one of the most rewarding programs you can be part of. It encourages and prioritizes friendship among people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) and people without.”
UHart’s Best Buddies club is part of Best Buddies International, a nonprofit organization that coordinates a global volunteer network to help individuals with IDD create meaningful friendships; secure productive jobs; live independently; learn leadership, self-advocacy, and communication skills; and feel valued by society. Disabilities include Down syndrome, autism, Fragile X, Williams syndrome, cerebral palsy, and traumatic brain injury.
The campus chapter is composed of students from UHart and both the Glastonbury Transitional Academy and Farmington Valley Transitional Academy. The club meets twice a month to arrange events and discuss new ideas. One major event coming up is the Best Buddies Walk, scheduled for Sunday, May 1.
“As president, it is important to me to make sure everyone feels safe and included, and I’m so grateful to have such a big role in what we do,” says Elizabeth, who was elected to the post last spring. “A lot of serious thought goes into our meetings so that we plan the best events possible.”
The UHart students pair up with students from the two regional academies for many events and initiatives, including a "match party" in the fall that helps kick off the school year with one-to-one buddy matches, an annual winter holiday party, and several other events.
“As a club we also try to attend UHart soccer and basketball games, and we try to see Hartford Wolf Pack hockey games,” Elizabeth says. “We also do a bowling fundraiser every year where we bowl, eat, and have fun—all for the benefit of the club.”
Many of the club’s recent events were remote because of the pandemic, but the students, who love seeing one another, have expressed great excitement about getting back to in-person events with the relaxation of COVID-19-related restrictions.
The Best Buddies Walk is one of the club’s major fundraisers, and a great opportunity for members and supporters to get together to show their commitment to spreading the Best Buddies messages of friendship, hope, and inclusion.