New organization allows students to find their ‘Best Buddies’


Members of Kent’s chapter of Best Buddies International gather at an ice cream social they held Sunday, March 3.

Jessica Goodwin

Imagine life without a best friend. There would be no one to share inside jokes with or rant about your day to. That is what it is like for millions of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). Best Buddies International wants to fix that.

Best Buddies International is a nonprofit organization with a goal of ending the social, physical and economic isolation of people with IDD. They bring together volunteers and people with IDD to create meaningful friendships. The organization currently has 564 college chapters across the U.S.

Katie Mapus, a senior accounting major, is the president and founder of Kent State’s chapter of Best Buddies. However, this chapter isn’t her first involvement with the Best Buddies program. Mapus said during her freshman year, Kent State had a Best Buddies organization on campus, but it only lasted one semester due to the group not having enough interest.

“I always wanted to start it back up, but there was never enough people to do it,” Mapus said.

Mapus’ passion for the organization comes from being around people with IDD her whole life, as she has family members with developmental disabilities.

“It has always been something I volunteered with,” Mapus said.

Junior fashion merchandising major Skye Mills is the social media and marketing director of Kent State Best Buddies, and she said that she was talking to Mapus about Best Buddies one day with their other mutual friend, and they all agreed to start it back up.  

Since its start, the organization has been holding informational meetings to generate interest.

“We haven’t had a lot of student interest, but we have had a lot of community members interested,” Mapus said.

There are two ways to get involved with the organization: Students can be an associate members who help run the organization and fundraise, or can become a “buddy” and get paired with someone with IDD. Pairing buddies is one of the main focuses for Best Buddies International.

According to the Best Buddies International website, through these pairings “people with IDD form meaningful connections with their peers, gain self-confidence and self-esteem, and share interests, experiences and activities that many other individuals enjoy.”

Mapus explained she has already had people reaching out to her wanting to be paired, or have their son or daughter paired. According to the Best Buddies Ohio website, Kent State is now only one of 10 universities in Ohio that have a Best Buddies chapter.

Mills explained that the closest chapter around the Akron/Kent area was at Cleveland State until they started this one. The Summit County Board of Developmental Disabilities contacted the Kent State chapter soon after they started to help connect people with the organization.

To get paired with a buddy, Mapus explained they conduct interviews with  potential members to try and pair them with someone they’re compatible with.

“Best Buddies International requires you to meet with your buddy twice a month and do something like get ice cream or go to a basketball game and talk with them at least once a week either through text, phone call, email or meeting in person,” Mills said.

“Since we started in the spring, we are doing a lot of group events. If people are unsure [about becoming a buddy], now is the time to join and hang out with us,” Mapus said. At one of their latest events, Mapus explained how genuinely excited everyone was about the organization.

“Just to see the excitement on their faces [at the fact] that they are going to be included in something with college students because they can’t have that college experience was really cool,” Mills said.

To find out more on how to get involved with the Kent State chapter of Best Buddies, students can follow them on Instagram and Twitter.

Jessica Goodwin covers charity. Contact her at [email protected]