Best Buddies of OU supports neurodivergent community

Payton Bucki, Campus Reporter

Best Buddies of Oakland University is a student organization that supports neurodivergent community members by connecting OU students and individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The group facilitates a variety of inclusive events and activities throughout the semester in order to create an inclusive, accepting environment for individuals of all abilities.

This past semester, Best Buddies OU has seen a large increase in active membership. The organization has hosted a variety of virtual and in-person events, open to neurodivergent community members, current college students and OU alumni.

Throughout the fall, the group had many successful social engagement activities. Members enjoyed a picnic outing, visited Yates Cider Mill, decorated pumpkins for Halloween and participated in a virtual game night.

“I quickly fell in love with the mission of Best Buddies and all the fun activities that it provides to those who may find it hard to interact with others,” Delaney Jackson, the Best Buddies OU secretary, said.

One of the club’s members was cast in The Addams Family Musical this November, so Best Buddies members attended the performance. For many neurodivergent members, it was their first time attending a live play. Thus, the event was a very special experience for the group.

“Having not fit in for most of my life, I understood a taste of what it was like to feel different,” Jacob Rao, the Best Buddies OU treasurer, said. “Joining this club allowed me to both receive and give to others a sense of friendship and belonging that I have always looked for.”

Best Buddies OU hosts a one-to-one pairing program which matches neurodivergent members with neurotypical college students. This program allows for instant friendships to bloom, as paired buddies enjoy fun moments together outside regularly scheduled club events.

“My favorite part of Best Buddies is that you can bring so much joy into someone’s life just by talking to them and including them,” Jackson said. “Those with special needs or varying disabilities can find it hard at times to make connections, and I think Best Buddies is an inclusive club for everybody where we are all friends and have a great time together.”

During the one-to-one matching process, individuals fill out a form by listing their interests and hobbies. The Best Buddies leadership team then creates the pairings based on similarities.

“Being one-to-one paired with a buddy is very rewarding,” Rao said. “My buddy and I hang out all the time.”

This December, Best Buddies has several events planned for the holiday season. The group will attend the Rochester Area Hometown Christmas Parade on Dec. 4, and then visit the Detroit Zoo Wild Lights to celebrate the end of the semester.

To learn more about Best Buddies and find information on how to join, students may visit the group’s GrizzOrgs page. For timely updates regarding club events, those interested can follow the Best Buddies Instagram page @bestbuddiesou.