UM Best Buddies chapter recognized at national conference

The University of Miami may be a good place to tan or play football, but it’s also a great place to meet your “best buddy.”

The Best Buddies chapter at the University of Miami received an Outstanding Chapter Award at the 19th Annual Student Leadership Conference, held this past summer in Bloomington, Ind.

Best Buddies International is a global non-profit organization that enriches the lives of people with mental and intellectual disabilities by providing them with a one-on-one friendship, or “best buddy.” UM’s chapter was one of 18 college chapters recognized nationwide out of a pool of over 400.

“They really did an outstanding job this year,” said Megan Horner, a representative from Best Buddies International. “I was really impressed.” Horner also said that for a chapter to be recognized, the quality of the friendships must be strong and the interactions frequent.

UM’s chapter raised over $1,000 and had outings with their buddies every month, which is more often than most chapters. They attended UM basketball games, visited the Metro Zoo in Miami, and also participated in the Walk for Autism.

The number of one-to-one friendships within the chapter also played a big role in their recognition. Under last year’s chapter president Ekta Nagar, UM’s Best Buddies chapter more than doubled their friendships, from 8 in 06-07, to 20 in 07-08.

“The biggest thing we noticed [in recognizing UM] was communication,” Horner said. UM’s chapter maintained a strong relationship with the Best Buddies global headquarters, which is located in Miami.

Like the UM chapter, Best Buddies International has grown considerably in the past 20 years, from one chapter at Georgetown University, to over 1,400 chapters internationally.