“Best Buddies” fight for inclusivity
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On Friday March 3, 2017 the Suffolk University’s chapter of Best Buddies held their “Spread the Word to End the Word” event in the Sargent Hall Function Room. “Spread the Word to End the Word” is a campaign advocated by Best Buddies and the Special Olympics that aims at raising awareness and to educate people on the use of the r-word.
“To tell you the truth,” said Andre Williams, Buddy Director to the Suffolk University chapter, “The r-word is so demeaning and it’s so disrespectful. It makes me, as a person with a disability, feel like I don’t belong in this world.”
Minni Morales, president of the Suffolk University chapter of Best Buddies, has been a part of the organization for her four years here at Suffolk and said during the event that the people she meets in this program never fail to touch her heart. Since she was a child, Morales said she was an advocate against the r-word because her uncle, who has down syndrome, would be insulted with this word. There were pamphlets that guests could take with recommended responses to anyone that had used the r-word in order to promote the elimination of its usage. Morales said she regularly tries to have a conversation with a person who has used the r-word, to educate them of the damage that this word can do.
Jenny LeBlanc, who has advocated for disabled people and is assigned by Best Buddies International as a Buddy Ambassador to the Suffolk University chapter, also spoke at the event and recounted how the organization has changed her life.
“I’m so glad to have friends. Since I got bullied I didn’t have friends,” said LeBlanc, “ Now I have friends. I’m very thankful with them in my life.”
The theme of friendship LeBlanc talked about was echoed by her fellow “buddy” Noah. Noah said that his favorite part of being in Best Buddies is feeling included, and making connections and friendships with the people he meets.
The organization’s mission statement is to form friendships that help integrate and include people with Intellectual Developmental Disabilities into the community and society, according to Morales. Elizabeth Bally, treasurer of Suffolk University’s chapter of Best Buddies, said during the event that the whole university was invited to attend, not just members of the organization, so the community could foster a night of inclusion with people who may not be as familiar with the cause.
Former SGA Vice Presidential candidate Levi Smith, who was a first-time attendee of this event, said, “I wasn’t familiar with Best Buddies until a month-ago and it was explained to me by Minni, and I was very emotional after that conversation with her.”