Sarah Carter ’24
On Sunday, Oct. 24, students of College of the Holy Cross coalesced in the Loyola Hall Ballroom for the first Best Buddies event of the semester. Upon arrival, students were invited to sit among friends and fellow students and conversate with each other, becoming familiar with the faces of those whom they will work alongside in the club this year. With six people per table, the space soon filled to capacity as more students and Buddies filed into the room, noise levels peaking as a burgeoning excitement spread amongst students.
According to the Holy Cross website, Best Buddies is a non-profit organization “ . . . dedicated to establishing a global volunteer movement that creates opportunities for one-to-one friendships, integrated employment, and leadership development for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.” At the College, the club endeavors to pair student members in one-to-one relationships with participating Buddies (who originate from an expansive range of secondary education, college-level, and post-GED programs), which students and their Buddies maintain for the duration of the year and beyond. To foster connectivity and ongoing communication between students and their Buddies, students attend scheduled events each month and participate in activities intended to hone team-building and collaborative competencies. Students are also encouraged to connect with their Buddies outside of club events (via cell or email or in-person meetings on campus, for example) to further nurture their relationship together. Some of the potential events planned for this year include a Christmas-themed winter movie night and an end-of-year dance, in which students and their Buddies dress in their best formal attire in celebration of an entire academic year’s worth of friendship. This year, the College’s chapter of Best Buddies is led by co-chairs Hannah Sansone ‘22 and Lauren Vitelli ‘22 and secretary Mia Cronin ‘22. All three leaders have expressed their intent to revive the program and promote the formation of new in-person friendships, as well as to promulgate awareness for issues such as inclusivity and respect for diversity throughout the College community.
Sunday’s event began with the pairing of students with their respective Buddies. Most of the attending students and their Buddies had never met before, and as a result, the room began to teem with nervous enthusiasm. One-by-one, the chapter co-chairs read off the names of the student-Buddy pairs, instructing each individual to wave their hand to signal who they were. As students and their Buddies located each other, a restlessness unfurled throughout the rooms as students and their Buddies waited to move seats, chronicling every passing second with an eagerness to meet each other and exchange preliminary hellos. Some Buddies let out half-suppressed laughs as the following moments ticked by, covering their mouths with their hands to mask their manifest excitement.
Once paired, students were able to move seats and introduce themselves to their new Buddies, forming new groups at each table and initiating the first round of get-to-know-you conversations. From sharing favorite Disney movies to bonding over similar passions, such as music, writing, and dancing, students and their Buddy matches engaged in endearing conversations about personal interests, family life, and future ambitions. Chapter leaders Sansome, Vitelli, and Cronin also provided coloring and tie-dye activities and a dessert table to entertain students and their new Buddy friends. Sarah Rocha ‘24 and her Buddy Hannah jubilated over their love for summertime, ice cream, and the Frozen soundtrack, eliciting an endless stream of laughter from where they sat in the corner of the room. According to Sarah, “The whole event was such a refreshing experience, and I cannot wait to get to know Hannah some more. Meeting her was really the highlight of my day.” At the close of the event, students bid their goodbyes and expressed gratitude towards their Buddies for taking the time to meet them, many of whom left the event with beaming smiles plastered across their faces.