UT Austin Best Buddies

My passion for working with individuals with various Intellectual or Developmental Disabilities (IDDs) (aka special needs) began in high school. I discovered I had a huge heart for inclusion and for fostering friendships between people from different communities and backgrounds. I created and ran a club at my high school to integrate our special needs community into our student body through social events and outings.

In high school, I volunteered with Camp Blessing where I spent a few weeks every summer forming lifelong friendships and memories, with our campers who had different IDDs, outdoors in the great Texas summer heat.

When I came to UT last year, I was looking for a similar organization where I could continue to fuel this passion and pour my heart into some amazing humans. I found Best Buddies at Party on the Plaza and my life hasn’t been the same since! Best Buddies is a national organization founded on a commitment to form one on one friendships with people from our community who showcase a wide range of different IDDs. Best Buddies holds events twice a month on Sundays from 4-6pm.

We have members who are peer buddies who matched one on one to a buddy with an IDD, associate members who come and hang out with everyone at the events, and volunteers who help make our events happen. There is an annual Friendship Walk, and through fundraising, our UT Austin Best Buddies chapter raised nearly $4000 for Best Buddies Texas this year! Pictured below is myself with a little boy named Bennett that I met at the Friendship Walk one September morning in San Antonio. He loves to jam to Taylor Swift and Bruno Mars. Bennett can also make a rocking “cool face,” guaranteed to make you all fall in love with him.

When I joined Best Buddies, I signed up as a peer buddy and was introduced to my incredible buddy at Match Party last year. Now, I am a part of the officer team, working as a co-membership director, to make sure that everybody else can find their new best friend and home in Best Buddies like I did.

Pictured below is me and my buddy Anakin when we first met last year and then another photo taken a year later at Match Party 2018. Anakin loves to eat hamburgers, and he is an amazing story-teller. Anakin comes up with a new story— with illustrations! at every event. He even messages me iMovie videos that he’s put together showcasing his illustrations with a voiceover of him reciting a new story— that he made up! Anakin is kind, friendly, and one interesting fella. Our past year of our friendship has been one to remember, and I can’t wait to make more memories this year.

Iris Kim || Social Work