Photo by Ethan Clark / MTSU Sidelines
Friends and members of Middle Tennessee State University’s Best Buddies program came together for a Thanksgiving dinner in the Thomas H. Jackson Building Monday night.
First started in 1989, the Best Buddies program encourages relationship building between students and people with special needs in the local area by promoting one-on-one friendships. The program’s MTSU branch hosts events at least twice every month to help foster these friendships. Earlier this month, for example, Best Buddies members met at the Chuy’s on Broad Street for a night of dinner and socializing.
“The buddy pairs are encouraged to hang out on their own,” said Kaitlin King, the president of MTSU’s Best Buddies program. “(They) go get coffee, shopping and stuff like that.”
King has been a member of the program for four years now.
According to King, there are around 80 to 90 members and 36 “friendships” between members as of this year.
“It’s building friendships that are actual friends,” said Spencer Boyd, a Best Buddies member who has been involved in the program for three years. “Literally, (my buddy), Bradley, could call me at two o’clock in the morning and say, ‘My car is broke down,’ and I would drive wherever.”
“They have something fun to do,” said Michelle Boyer-Pennington, the faculty adviser for MTSU’s Best Buddies program. “There’s just not that many opportunities for these special need kids to actually get out and socialize.”
For many of the members of Best Buddies with special needs, the program is the only place where they can socialize without oversight from their parents.
After the Thanksgiving dinner, members drew thank-you cards and made decorations for next month’s Christmas event. The night ended with music and dancing.
“It always ends in a dance party,” King said.
For more information about Best Buddies’ MTSU program, e-mail the group’s members at email@example.com.
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