Best Buddies at Centre named Outstanding Kentucky Chapter for 2010-11
June 23, 2011 By Elizabeth Trollinger
David, unwittingly came in matching costumes to the Best
Buddies Halloween Costume and Match Dance in the fall.
Sam Williams '11 and buddy Libby at the Halloween Costume
and Match Dance. Best Buddies brings people with intellectual
and developmental disabilities and Centre students together.
The Centre College chapter of the Best Buddies Organization was recently named Kentucky’s Outstanding College Chapter for 2010-11.
Best Buddies was founded by Anthony Kennedy Shriver in 1989 with the purpose of establishing one-to-one friendships with and giving opportunities in leadership development to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Centre’s chapter was established in 2009, and it immediately became one of the most meaningful and popular organizations on campus.
“While no accolade is as nice as seeing our buddies having a great time at a dance or bowling alley, this award confirms that, at Centre, we are doing things well,” says Ben Cocanougher ’11, Centre’s Best Buddy Director from 2009 until his graduation in May.
Best Buddies allows Centre students to connect with the community in a unique way.
“While there are many great organizations on campus that are connected to the Danville community,” Cocanougher says, “I think Best Buddies does an exceptional job of connecting Centre students with a portion of the community that is often forgotten.”
Incoming Centre Best Buddy Director Emily Donlon ’14 agrees.
“Best Buddies is so much more than a community outreach program,” she says. “It's not the type of service where you spend one day working on a project and then never follow up. When Best Buddies friendships are formed, students are invested in their buddy's life and care about their relationship with that person.”
Best Buddies benefits not only members of the Danville community with special needs, but also is transformative for the Centre students themselves.
“It’s a win-win,” says Patrick Noltemeyer, associate dean and director of community service and the Bonner program. “When the folks from the community come to campus, or when our students go out into the community, they find a new outlook on life – they learn to find joy in the simple things.”
For everyone involved in Best Buddies, the most meaningful parts of the experience are the fun times and great friendships they come away with.
“When I go to see David (my buddy), it is a time that I use to de-stress – I'm in the company of a friend,” Donlon says. “Whether I’m at one of our dances sponsored by the Special Persons Advocacy Network [SPAN] or at Family Ties, the day training center for developmentally disabled persons, I get a chance to learn something new about some very interesting people.”
Cocanougher, like Donlon, has gained friends through the Best Buddy program, as well as a different kind of knowledge than he could have found in the classroom.
“At Centre, as with all academic institutions, there is a great emphasis on being the smartest, fastest, and best at every activity. Through Best Buddies I have learned that there is an inherent importance in everyone, regardless of ability,” Cocanougher says. “While my buddy may not be able to tutor me in organic chemistry, he has taught me even more invaluable lessons about friendship.”
Best Buddies brings people together who likely would not have known each other at all. Donlon remembers meeting her buddy for the first time at the Halloween Costume and Match Dance and finding that they had a lot in common.
“I wore my Spartans Cheerleader outfit,” Donlon remembers. “When I found out that David was my buddy, it couldn't have been more of a perfect match. He came dressed as a blind referee! It's the little coincidences like that (and that we both know all of the words to ‘Achy Breaky Heart’ by Billy Ray Cyrus) that mean the most.”
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Founded in 1819, Centre College is ranked among the U.S. News top 50 national liberal arts colleges. Forbes magazine ranks Centre 24th among all the nation's colleges and universities and has named Centre No. 1 among all institutions of higher education in the South for two years in a row. Centre alumni, known for their nation-leading loyalty in annual financial support, include two U.S. vice presidents and two Supreme Court justices. For more, click here.