Best Buddies promotes social outings for all students


Courtesy graphic

A national program is looking to buddy up with UNLV students to make a difference for people with intellectual disabilities.

“Our mission is to enhance the lives of people with intellectual disabilities by providing one to one friendships and job opportunities,” said Jamie McNulty, a UNLV student interning with the organization’s Nevada chapter.

UNLV students in the program meet every five weeks for activities from basketball to board games.  The only requirement is that they call their buddies at least once a week and hang out with them twice a month.

The buddies participate in activities like any other friends like going to movies, shopping or going out for ice cream.

“It’s really fun,” McNulty said. “People underestimate how good a friend someone with an intellectual disability can be.”

McNulty is one of nine members of the UNLV organization associated with Best Buddies. Her buddy is Lupe Linares.

Linares, 20, loves to draw, talk on the phone, text and go to movies.  McNulty describes her as a “girly girl.”

A person with an intellectual disability has an intellectual functioning level below 70 and limited adaptive skills since birth.  Common causes include Down Syndrome, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and Fragile X.

But McNulty said the reason the buddies are a part of the program does not matter.

“I’ve never asked [Linares] what type of disability she has,” McNulty said. “That’s not important.  What is important is that she’s fun, a good friend.” 

Linares said her favorite things about the buddy program are “learning new things, making new friends who show you things and having a friend you can kick it with.”

McNulty said students and their buddies grow into a mutual friendship.  Students’ lives are enhanced as much as their buddies’. 

“It’s definitely a friendship,” McNulty said.  “It’s not just something where it’s just for the buddy. I get a friend out of it too.”

On April 11, program participants were paired with Miss America contestants for the Buddy Two Shoes Walk around the Planet Hollywood Miracle Mile Shops.

“I haven’t seen a lot of them have that much fun in a long time,” McNulty said.

“In the party after, they were having so much fun because it was not concentrated on their intellectual disability. Each one was dancing with one of the contestants.”

The walk raised awareness and funding for students and their buddies to attend a leadership conference.

Best Buddies, a national nonprofit organization, is looking for UNLV students who want to get involved in the program for fun and rewarding activities like the Buddy Two Shoes Walk.

“Some might be nervous to work with someone with an intellectual disability, but there is nothing to be nervous about,” McNulty said. “It’s super fun and rewarding.” 

There are currently five buddies that need a friend. They are young men and need good male influences.

If students are not able to have a buddy, they are welcomed to come participate at chapter meetings, playing games. Best Buddies will have a picnic from 10 to 12:30 p.m. on May 8 at Justice Myron Leavitt Park, where interested students can meet the program’s participants.

Buddies are matched up at the South Eastern Career and Technology Academy.  SECTA teaches people with intellectual disabilities trade skills they can use in the workforce.



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