Georgetown may be the birthplace of Best Buddies International and the largest chapter in the District of Columbia, but on Sunday the organization started small – with a welcoming barbecue and afternoon for new members on Copley Lawn.

Best Buddies is anything but the traditional organization, though, as this non-profit organization provides the intellectually disabled with both friendship and employment opportunities in their communities.

According to co-president Caitlin Ryan (SFS ’09), Best Buddies is anticipating having 40 participants from Georgetown this year and is planning about four activities per semester. Its network spans out to the D.C. Metro area and forms relationships with both those living with families and those living at care centers.

Founded in 1989 by Anthony Kennedy Shriver (CAS ’88), a member of the Kennedy clan, Best Buddies houses six formal programs, including Best Buddies Middle Schools, High Schools, Colleges, Citizens, e -Buddies and Jobs.

Participants at Georgetown said the organization offers a transformative opportunity for both the students involved and those they are seeking to help.

“[It is] a great chance to interact with the D.C. community and develop a friendship with someone you might not otherwise meet,” Barbara Mickits (COL ’09), the college buddy director, said.

“[Best Buddies is] the most meaningful thing I’ve done at Georgetown,” added co-president Carolyn Plunkett (COL `09).

Joan Riley, assistant professor and nurse practitioner in the department of human science and nursing and faculty adviser of the Georgetown chapter, said the organization helps Georgetown students above all else form friendships and raise their own level of awareness of the challenges facing the intellectually disabled. She said her daughter, Kate, who has Down Syndrome, sits on the Best Buddies Board as the buddy director.

Riley said she has been witness to the positive effects of the program, both in the many students it helps and in the case of her daughter.

“The spirit [Best Buddies] brings really embraces the true mission of Georgetown – the inclusion of all people,” she said.

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