Best Buddies Club starts strong

Flagler students help meet needs of St. Augustine disabled residents

By Kelsey Flynn |

Megan Echaverria, president of the Best Buddies Club on campus, will be visiting The St. Augustine Center for the Living along with some of the club members who will be in town during the winter break.

“The center has invited members whom will be in town over winter break to come to the center a few days before Christmas to visit with the buddies and give out gifts with Santa,” Echaverria said.

The center is a residental care facility for the developmentally disabled, and was opened in 1980 as one of the first care centers of its type in the area. According its website, the facility has approximately 60 beds housing the community’s developmentally disabled. The organization seeks to help advance health, life skills, and behavioral and psychological development.

Best Buddies is an international non-profit organization that partners volunteers with people who have intellectual disabilities. According to the international organization’s website, the Best Buddies mission is “to enhance the lives of people with intellectual disabilities by providing opportunities for one-to-one friendships and integrated employment.”

The organization now has a number of different programs for employers as well as for students in middle schools, high schools, and colleges to get involved. Also, a program called e-buddies has been started which provides e-mail support and relations.

The students involved with the local chapter of the program work with adults who reside at the St. Augustine Center for the Living. This year the chapter has 18 paired helpers and 15 associate members who are involved with group activities. The buddies who are paired get an opportunity to have a friend outside their own environment and from a different culture, age and stage of life.

The members of the student chapter said they enjoy the commroderie received from participating in this event. Griffith Eagon participates with the program for group activities and wishes she had more time to devote. “Anything that can put a smile on someone face is a great thing,” Eagon said.

Last year, the club only had six members and did not work with the group home. However, this year the club is beginning strong and is happy to have already been organizing and participating in many activities. Earlier this year, the club had a fall festival, which included hayrides, face painting, and a moon bounce. They also have already held a group picnic and a karaoke night.

Last year, Flagler’s Best Buddies chapter participated in the Special Olympics, and are hoping to participate in this event again.

The students involved in the Best Buddies program at Flagler said they have learned how to better relate to the intellectually disabled through the program.

According to Echaverria, “It gives typically functioning people a better understanding, acceptance, and appreciation of people with disabilities.”

For more information, attend their meetings on Mondays at 7 p.m. in the Student Center.

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