By: Brandon Gillet
Friendship, inclusion and good times is what the Best Buddies program aims to promote for the fall of 2013 at Algonquin. The group hosted a Bowling for Buddies charity event on April 4.
Best Buddies pairs students with people who have intellectual disabilities in one-on-one friendships. Whether it be going to see a movie, or simply enjoying a cup of coffee, these friendships allow the intellectually disabled to take part in activities that most people take for granted, helping them gain independence and a feeling of acceptance.
Through pairings with different foundations like The Tamir Foundation, peers are matched with buddies based on similar interests and friendship compatibility. The pairs then maintain contact each week and enjoy one-on-one activities as well as four chapter events per year.
Though popular throughout Ottawa at universities and high schools, the Algonquin chapter of the program has had to work hard to create awareness mainly due to student turn over. Many participating schools, like high schools for example, have much more time to participate than the average two-year course at Algonquin.
Best Buddies once had a chapter at Algonquin, but fell off due to lack of interest at the time. The program is now in its second successful year at the college and it’s all thanks to developmental services student Robyn Quade.
A second year student, Quade is on a full scholarship from the Garfield Weston Foundation, she is the captain of the women’s rugby team and the president of Algonquin’s chapter of Best Buddies. After one interview with the program, she was given the job and she started the chapter two years ago.
She also has a buddy of her own which she has built a lasting friendship with and who assists with chapter organization as a “buddy advocate.”
Now, as she is graduating, Quade will finish her tenure with the Bowling for Buddies charity event and assist the incoming president next year as an Algonquin alumni.
Five teams of five comprised of student volunteers and buddies will collect pledges and hold a bowling tournament with a goal of $500 for the programs fall agenda.
“I’m sad about graduating because I can’t participate in Best Buddies when I am no longer a student,” Quade said about the end of her term as president and Algonquin student.
Her perseverance has built the Algonquin chapter from the ground up and has created much more interest and recognition for the program.
“She is a Best Buddies star and I am sad to see her go,” said program manager Heather Brown.
Brown manages chapters across Ontario and Quebec by keeping in regular contact with chapter presidents, and is a former president of the Nipissing University chapter.
And like Quade hopes to do, she still talks to her buddy.