USU Best Buddies Chapter Hosts Valentine's Dance
Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2017
The Student Life section of Utah State Today highlights work written by the talented student journalists at Utah State University. Each week, the editor selects a story that has been published in The Utah Statesman or the Hard News Café or both for inclusion in Utah State Today.
Best Buddies is one of the many organizations hosted by the Val R. Christensen Service Center at Utah State University. In Best Buddies, college students are paired with individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities (IDD) for monthly friendship activities.
For the February activity, the USU Best Buddies chapter hosted their annual Valentine’s dance Feb 8. The Heart Day Hullabaloo was a big hit for both college students and their buddies.
Makaila Kelso is the current director of the Best Buddies organization for USU. Her main responsibility is to ensure that everything runs smoothly.
“I make sure everything goes well and the activities go as planned, people do their jobs and everyone is having a good time. I deal with the complaints and when a college student isn’t following through with being a buddy, then I rematch them and do all of the not so fun things,” Kelso said.
Kelso first joined Best Buddies because of her experience with family members who have IDD.
“I have a lot of family members with IDD. My aunt is fully wheelchair bound and I have two cousins with autism who I nannied all through high school. Those experiences were probably why I picked best buddies out of all of the other organizations,” Kelso said.
As part of her responsibilities, Kelso approves the calendar at the beginning of the year. Without realizing it, Kelso approved one of the activities this year to be on her birthday.
“I didn’t realize that the November event was on my birthday. So I spent my birthday at Best Buddies and the whole crowd sang to me and another buddy who I share a birthday with,” Kelso said. “Nearly all of them know me and so afterwards, so many buddies came up to wish me a happy birthday. In a normal environment, I don’t know that that would happen. I wouldn’t want to spend my birthday anywhere else.”
Kelso has been involved with the Best Buddies organization ever since she was a freshman. She has gone from being a normal member, to the VP over activities and events, to her current position as the director of the program.
“After day one, you can’t leave. I was completely sold and I hope to continue doing this after college,” she said.
Jessica Bartholomew is the vice president of fundraising for the Best Buddies organization. Up until this month, they’ve had all of their supplies for their activities donated by local businesses.
“We were actually in debt at the beginning of the school year. So for every activity we had to have everything donated. I go around to local businesses and see what they are willing to donate,” she said.
Best Buddies has also done some fundraising of their own right here on campus.
“In December the week before finals, we did a fundraiser selling hot chocolate and a pastry for a dollar in the library. We got a lot of money from that and a lot of people came,” Bartholomew said. “Then Jace Goodwin contacted us to see if it would be okay if all of the proceeds they had from the banquet for arts week come to Best Buddies. From fundraising, we’ve had more opportunities to make people aware and they’re willing to donate more.”
Bartholomew chose to do Best Buddies because she loves to serve others.
“I’m studying special education and I’ve always loved working with individuals with physical and mental disabilities. I wanted to get more involved and have more experience working with individuals who have disabilities. But I also love to serve others because it is what makes me the happiest. It’s so rewarding to be able to give back and to be able to be involved.”
Bartholomew’s favorite experience from her time in the organization happened on her very first day.
“The first time that I picked up my buddy, we were just sitting in the car and she asked me about my best friend. When I returned the question to her, she was like, ‘probably you.’ I just love how loving they are towards everyone. You could literally have just met them but they’re gonna be your best friend,” Bartholomew said. “They’ll tell you the things you love, the things they hate. It’s so easy to talk to them and it’s just normal. It becomes such an easy association and great friendship.”
Bartholomew believes that people should join the program because of the friendships and qualities they will gain.
“I think I would say just come to an activity and see what it is like. It may seem intimidating and people aren’t really sure what to do. Come to the activity, be yourself and treat them the way you would anyone else,” she said. “I feel like people gain a lot of patience and acceptance. People become more accepting of everyone. Its such a loving environment that everyone is comfortable. Fining common ground through Best Buddies has helped me meet some of my best friends.”
Greg Beecher has been involved with Best Buddies for the past four years. He loves the opportunity that it has given him to build relationships.
“One thing that I really like is that they match you up with a college buddy. You actually do get a real, true friendship out of that. It’s funny with me, because for four years, I’ve actually been with the same person. Which I like because it takes away the wait and you already know them,” Beecher said. “It’s one of the best programs I’ve been involved with since I’ve been in Logan.
You can have a true friendship with a college buddy. The way it’s set up it just an awesome program.”
Beecher works four days a week as a sign waiver for Liberty Tax, and spends his spare time with Best Buddies.
“I’d like to still stay involved but I also work. A lot of the times where I have to plan things around my work schedule,” he said. “But so far, I’ve been able to work and still come do Best Buddies. One thing that I did worry about, is that when I started working is that I wouldn’t be as involved. It’s nice that I can be involved with the Best Buddies and still work too.”
Not only does Beecher have a buddy, but he gets to serve as a leader in the program as the buddy director.
“A couple of months ago I was able to go down to a training in Salt Lake for the Best Buddies Ambassadors. It was a really good training. After that training they announced we are ambassadors. Right now, I am the buddy director. It’s nice because when you’re with best buddies you have opportunities to expand your curriculum through trainings,” he said.
Each buddy pair gets to hang out twice a month. Once at the organized activity, and once on their own time.
Freshman, Adalyn Nicholls got involved with the Best Buddies program during her first semester at USU. She has loved the experiences that she has had so far with her buddy, Sarah.
“Last month was my favorite because the Polynesian Student Union came and danced for us. Sarah and I were just super giggly. Another time, I went to her house and we colored and we’ve been to the movies once. We haven’t done tons, but I make sure to just call her every once in awhile if we don’t get a chance to hang out,” Nicholls said.
Nicholls believes that Best Buddies has something to offer for everyone. She said if a student was hesitant about joining, they definitely shouldn’t be.
“I would tell them that it’s all pros and no cons. There’s just only good things about it. It’s not even that time consuming and it’s super rewarding. We have super fun activities and it’s fun for them and they love you and appreciate a friend so much,” Nicholls said.