The November 2016 focus of Orion Gives Back is Best Buddies Memphis.
Best Buddies is dedicated to creating opportunities for one-to-one friendships, integrated employment and leadership development for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). They serve people with Down syndrome, autism, Fragile X, Williams syndrome, cerebral palsy, traumatic brain injury and other undiagnosed disabilities. The Memphis program has a strong advocate in Area Director Kristen Litvin, whose passion and stories about her organization are unforgettable.
How did you become involved with Best Buddies?
My relationship with Best Buddies began a little over a year ago when I attended the Best Buddies luncheon. I walked away from the program feeling inspired and knew I wanted to be involved in this organization. Since that day, Best Buddies completely took hold of my heart. I volunteered at several events, served as a Program Manager for School Friendship, and became the Memphis Area Director when the opportunity arose.
What have been some of the most rewarding moments of your work with Best Buddies?
I was talking to a mom the other day who told me the story of her son’s involvement with Best Buddies. Before being in the program, he had no friends. One day she stopped by the school and it happened to be lunchtime. She peeked in the lunchroom and saw her child sitting all alone and talking to himself. Now that he is involved with Best Buddies he sits at a table of his peers, is actively involved with his new friends, and the experience has transformed him and their entire family! I love hearing success stories from parents.
Another great example is a Buddy Pair from Christian Brother’s University who light up a room whenever they are together. Their bond and friendship is undeniable. In one year they went from being strangers to best friends. They vacation together, spend their free time together, and are even in the process of building a state of the art recording studio! The peer buddy has encouraged, motivated, inspired his buddy in unimaginable ways. Right now he is helping him to accomplish his dream of recording an album. They are so much fun and a great reminder of the power of friendship!
What is something about Best Buddies that may surprise people?
I think people take for granted the power and importance of friendship. When we create one buddy pair in the community there are approximately ten additional people touched by that one friendship. Friendship transforms lives and communities.
What is one thing you wish everyone knew about Best Buddies Memphis?
That in most instances, it’s the volunteer Buddy who does not have an Intellectual Developmental Disability (IDD) that benefits the most from the friendship.
To learn more about Best Buddies and ways you can help, visit https://bestbuddies.org.